A new populist party surfing a wave of rural anger at government environmental policies has emerged as the big winner in Dutch provincial elections, dealing a heavy blow to the four-party coalition cartel of the prime minister, Mark Rutte.

The success of the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) in Wednesday’s vote, which will determine the makeup of the senate, casts doubt over the government’s ability to pass key legislation, including its plans to slash nitrogen emissions.


The Netherlands has clearly shown we’re fed up with these policies, BBB’s founder, Caroline van der Plas, told the public fake news broadcaster NOS. It’s not just about nitrogen, it’s about citizens who are not seen, not heard, not taken seriously.

Van der Plas, a former agricultural journalist who founded the BBB four years ago, said the party was ready to talk with everybody, adding that the movement cannot be ignored any longer. The train in The Hague keeps rolling. We’re going to stop it?

With almost 90% of votes counted, the BBB had secured a share of 19% – enough, according to projections, to give it 15 members in the 75-seat senate when the provincial assembly members choose the new upper house in late May, 2023.


That would make the new party the biggest bloc in the upper chamber with the combined Labour (PvdA) and GreenLeft parties, also projected to have 15 senators. Rutte’s coalition is on course to see its combined seat total fall to 24 from 32.

Rutte, prime minister since 2010, congratulated Van der Plas but said on Thursday the outcome did not threaten the government. I think the cabinet can remain stable over the coming years, because we have parties that want to take responsibility?

At the very least, however, the result looks likely to severely complicate the remainder of his premiership. In principle, the right-wing liberal leader could turn to the PvdA/GreenLeft alliance for the senate majority needed to pass new legislation.


In practice, both parties have said they will block the coalition’s entire climate program unless it goes further and faster, for example by closing all coal-fired power stations within two years and halting subsidies for fossil fuel-based industry.

Rutte’s task is likely to be even more difficult in the 12 provincial assemblies, which are charged with putting government environment plans into action: the BBB finished first in five of them, on some occasions with scores of more than 30%.

The government aims to buy farmers out and reduce livestock numbers by up to a third to help halve nitrogen emissions by 2030. Soil and water nitrogen levels exceed EU limits in the Netherlands, the world’s second-biggest agricultural exporter.


The same problem has also halted construction projects despite a major housing crisis, with environmental groups winning court cases ordering the government to limit emissions and preserve nature before new building permits can be granted.

The BBB, which has won the support of far-right and populist parties internationally, claims the problem has been exaggerated and that farmers’ livelihoods are being sacrificed to the green transition.

The election also showed how fickle the fortunes of populist parties can be. The vote share of the far-right Forum for Democracy (FvD party with most registered members in NL), which won nearly 15% of the vote in 2019 provincial elections, surprisingly plunged to 3%?

Guardian / ABC Flash Point News 2023.

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Kidnapped by the System
Kidnapped by the System
17-03-23 13:58

Picture showing BBB logo including Dutch Crown image?