Dutch farmers upend politics with historic election victory

BBB leader Caroline van der Plas. Twitter/

The Hague: Dutch Farmers have made history by defeating Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s environmental agenda, winning elections that will shape the upper house of parliament. His resounding victory has brought about a significant change in the country’s political landscape.

Exit polls showed the Peasant-Citizen Movement (BoerBurgerBeweging, BBB), founded less than four years ago, to win the most seats in the recent wave of protests. Dutch The Senate

The Farmers’ Party vowed to challenge the Rutte government’s plans to reduce nitrogen emissions by immediately reducing livestock numbers and possibly closing some farms.

“What’s going on here? We really knew we were going to win, but it’s so inexplicable,” stunned BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told public broadcaster NOS.

He described the nitrogen plans as “a kind of doctrine dictated by The Hague”.

The BBB is on track to win 15 seats in the 75-seat Senate, ahead of Rutte’s centre-right party’s 10 seats, based on exit polls from provincial elections that also determine the composition of the upper house.

Farmers can now work with other parties in the Senate to block nitrogen legislation proposed by Rutte’s four-party coalition, which is poised to lose eight seats to bring its total to 24. .

‘Hearing doesn’t feel’

The Netherlands has been rocked by months of violent protests in which farmers blockaded government buildings with tractors, backed by international figures including former US President Donald Trump.

Thousands of farmers rallied in The Hague on Saturday. He also used a tractor to block the site of a televised debate by party leaders on the eve of the election.

But their cause struck a chord in the Netherlands, with a proud farming tradition that despite its small population of 18 million is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter after the United States.

The Dutch government says it needs to cut nitrogen emissions by 50 percent by 2030, with fertilizers and manure from agriculture particularly blamed for the pollution.

It says it must comply with a Dutch court order that says it has breached EU rules on nitrogen emissions affecting soil and water.

But farmers say they are still being hit with incomplete proposals compared to sectors like construction, industry and transport.

“We don’t really feel heard,” BBB’s national president and a pig farmer himself, Eric Stegnick, told AFP before the vote.

“Sometimes we don’t even feel welcome in our own country.”


Exit polls showed the Peasants’ party in first place in all provinces surveyed, with an impressive 31.3 percent in its heartland in the rural Overijssel region and 14.3 percent in northern Holland, which includes Amsterdam.

Rutte, the Netherlands’ longest-serving leader in power since 2010, said before the vote that he hoped his coalition could resolve the issue.

Tessel van der Wyken, a 21-year-old student who voted in The Hague, said she was “not worried but curious” about the BBB’s win.

Voter Michael van Heck, 69, described Farmers as a “populist party”, adding that he expected a “big victory from the BBB and I hope so” for Rutte’s VVD party. that at least stable”.

The farmers have also gained support from the global far-right, who allege, without evidence, that there is a sinister “universal” conspiracy to rob farmers of their land.

But exit polls showed the Dutch far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD) party, which won the last provincial election in 2019, had been virtually wiped out.

Its leader Thierry Baudet has called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “hero” and embraced Covid conspiracy theories.

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