A protest party made up of farmers shook the political landscape in the Netherlands on Wednesday by positioning itself as the big winner of regional elections that determine the composition of the Senate.
The BoerBurgerBeweging party (BBB, or Movement of Citizens Farmers) organized a wave of demonstrations against the government’s environmental policies and projections indicate that it won more seats in the Senate than the VVD party, of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
An exit projection gave the BBB 15 of the 75 seats in the Senate, which has the power to block legislation passed in the lower house of Parliament, and the VVD drops from 12 to 10 senators.
The meteoric rise of the BBB is a heavy blow to the governing coalition and leaves in doubt the objective of drastically reducing pollution by nitrogen oxides on farms, the only subject for which the BBB was created, in 2019.
“No one will be able to continue ignoring us anymore,” party leader Caroline van der Plas told Radio 1. “Voters have come out very clearly against the government’s policies.”
The Government aims to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030, as a relatively large number of livestock and high use of fertilizers have led to levels of nitrogen oxides in soil and water that violate EU regulation. European.
The nitrogen problem has paralyzed construction in the Netherlands as environmental groups have won a series of court cases forcing the government to limit emissions and preserve the environment before new building permits can be issued.
The BBB alleges that the problem has been inflated and that the proposed solutions are unbalancedly unfair to farmers, leading to the closure of many farms and problems in food production.
The Rutte Government has not had a majority in the Senate since the previous elections, in 2019, and has to negotiate to reach agreements, especially with the left-wing opposition. The two most cooperative parties, Labor and the Greens, seem to have managed to keep their senators, leaving, together, with an equal number vis-à-vis the BBB, possibly enough to continue to support Rutte’s policies.
In 2021, the BBB won only one seat in the lower house of parliament, but its popularity soared as distrust of the Government and irritation with issues such as immigration grew. Rutte’s government, which is in its fourth term, has an approval rating of 20%, the lowest in a decade.