The Netherlands were still stunned on Thursday the day after the surprise electoral victory of a party bringing together farmers, which jeopardizes 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 even 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.
These demonstrations have attracted worldwide attention and garnered support in particular from former US President Donald Trump and several far-right figures.
“People have made their voices heard, and how!” exclaimed Caroline van der Plas, co-founder of the BBB and the party’s sole MP.
The provincial elections, which are used to appoint senators, saw the BBB win the most votes in the majority of the country’s 12 provinces, according to the latest counts, a “monster victory” in the eyes of the Dutch press.
– “History” –
The BBB also collected the votes of voters disappointed by the so-called traditional parties and who have lost confidence in Mark Rutte, in office since 2010 and Dutch Prime Minister with the greatest longevity.
“The BBB’s historic gain is the result of many protest votes,” observes Marleen de Rooy, political journalist for NOS public television.
The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy led by Mr. Rutte (VVD) had to make do with an estimate of 10 seats out of the 75 in the Senate.
“It’s not the victory we wanted,” said Mr. Rutte on Wednesday evening.
Already a minority before the elections, the four-party coalition finds itself even further from a majority in the Senate, divided with the BBB on one side and the ecologists (GroenLinks) and the Labor Party (PvdA) on the other, who should obtain together 15 seats.
The task promises to be complicated to find the necessary support for the environmental plans of the executive: the BBB could ally itself with right-wing parties also opposed, while GroenLinks and the Labor Party believe that these plans are not ambitious enough .
– “Concessions” –
“The voters have given the government a complex political puzzle” to solve, because the BBB and the left bloc will demand “substantial concessions” to cooperate with the executive, believes the daily De Volkskrant.
Mr Rutte told NOS, the Dutch public radio and television station, that he was going to analyze the situation “calmly” and that the coalition – majority in the lower house – would then seek a majority “by file” in the Senate .
Caroline van der Plas, appearing gobsmacked by the results in several headlines on Thursday, immediately underlined her commitment to defy government plans for the environment.
The executive wants to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030, a greenhouse gas emitted in particular by fertilizers and livestock effluents.
This measure is necessary, according to him, 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 says he is unfairly targeted in relation to industry and transport.