Dutch farmers’ protest party sweeps elections, shakes up Senate

Dutch peasant protest party shakes up Dutch Senate.

SEM van der Wall/Contributor/Getty Images

A peasant protest party shook up the political landscape in the Netherlands on Wednesday, emerging as the big winner in provincial elections that determine the composition of the senate.

The BBB, or Boer Burger Beweging (farmer-citizen movement) party, which has launched a wave of protests against the government’s environmental policies, looks set to win more Senate seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party.

The first exit poll expected the BBB to win 15 of the 75 seats in the Senate, which has the power to block legislation passed by the lower house, with the VVD dropping to 10 from 12.

The BBB’s meteoric rise is a major blow to Rutte’s governing coalition, casting doubt on its aim to drastically reduce nitrogen pollution on farms, the only problem with the BBB’s establishment in 2019.

“Nobody can ignore us anymore,” BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told broadcaster Radio 1.

“Voters are very unequivocally opposed to the policies of this administration.”

The government aims to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030, as relatively large numbers of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers lead to levels of nitrogen oxides in soil and water that violate EU rules.

Nitrogen problems have crippled construction in the Netherlands, as environmental groups won a series of court cases ordering the government to limit emissions and protect nature before new building permits are granted.

The BBB said the problem had been overblown and the proposed solution unfairly balanced farmers’ interests, leading to many farm closures and food production shortages.

Rutte’s government has not won a majority in the Senate since the last provincial election in 2019 and must negotiate a deal with mainly left-wing opponents.

The two most cooperative parties, Labor and the Green Left, look set to keep their seats, bringing their combined bloc on par with the BBB and possibly enough to maintain support for Rutte’s policies.

The BBB won a seat in the House of Commons in 2021, but its popularity has soared amid growing distrust of the government and anger over issues such as immigration.

The Rutte government in its Fourth consecutive term since 2010has dropped to 20% support, the lowest in a decade.

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