The Netherlands stunned after a farmer’s party’s surprise election victory

The Netherlands was stunned on Thursday, a day after a surprise election victory for a party bringing together farmers who threaten the government’s environmental ambitions.

The “Farmer-Citizen Movement” (BBB), founded in 2019, made a strong entry into the Senate during the provincial elections: it should become the largest party in the upper house with 16 or 17 seats.

The party has been one of the main players in a wave of protests against Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition plans to limit nitrogen emissions, including reducing livestock and possibly closing farms.

The demonstrations have attracted worldwide attention and support, notably from former US President Donald Trump and many on the far-right.

Caroline van der Plas, co-founder of the BBB and the party’s sole MP, said “The people have made their voices heard, and how!”

Provincial elections, which are used to appoint senators, saw the BBB win most of the country’s 12 provinces with the most votes, according to the latest count, a “monster victory” in the eyes of the Dutch press.

– “History” –

The BBB also aggregated votes from voters disillusioned with so-called traditional parties and who have lost confidence in Mark Rutte, in office since 2010 and the Dutch prime minister with the greatest longevity.

“The historic advantage of the BBB is the result of many protest votes,” says Marlene de Rooy, political journalist for NOS Public Television.

Mr Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) was to make do with an estimate of 10 seats out of 75 in the Senate.

“This is not the victory we wanted,” Mr Rutte said on Wednesday evening.

Already a minority ahead of the elections, the four-party coalition finds itself even further short of a majority in the Senate, split between the BBB on the one hand and the Ecologists (GroenLynx) and the Labor Party (PVDA) on the other, which should gain a combined 15 seats.

Getting the necessary support for the executive’s environmental plans promises to be a difficult task: the BBB may ally itself with right-wing parties, while the GreenLinks and the Labor Party believe the plans are not ambitious enough. Are.

– “Concessions” –

“Voters have given the government a complex political puzzle” to solve, as the BBB and the left-wing bloc will seek “substantial concessions” to co-operate with the executive, believes the daily De Volkskrant.

Mr Rutte told Dutch public radio and television station NOS he was going to analyze the situation “calmly” and that the coalition – which has a majority in the lower house – would then seek a majority “by file” in the Senate.

Caroline van der Plas, appearing baffled by the results in many headlines on Thursday, immediately underlined her commitment to defying government plans for the environment.

The executive wants to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030, a greenhouse gas emitted particularly by fertilizers and livestock waste.

According to him, this measure is necessary to solve the housing crisis. Large construction projects, which also emit nitrogen, have been suspended by the courts for environmental reasons.

The Hague wants to release 25 billion euros by 2035 to help the agricultural sector reduce its emissions. But the latter say they have been unfairly targeted in relation to industry and transport.

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