Dutch farmers storm to victory in regional elections, set to become largest party in the Senate

Voters dealt a hammer blow to the Dutch establishment in Wednesday’s regional elections, propelling the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) to become the largest party in the Senate in just its first election.

Exit polls projected the movement will win 15 seats in the Dutch upper chamber as voters sent a clear message to Mark Rutte’s government over its planned nitrogen emissions laws campaigners say will devastate the country’s agricultural sector.

“The Dutch have clearly shown that they are fed up with the policy,” BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told De Telegraaf late on Wednesday. “I’m going to party.”

“The turnaround has started. The voters have spoken and have denounced support of this government,” she added in a tweet.

“She did very well,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte admitted, whose People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) saw its projected seats fall from the current 12 to 10.

Government coalition parties didn’t fare much better. The liberal party, Democrats 66 (D66), is projected to drop a seat, as is the Christian Union (CU), while the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) is expected to drop four seats from its current nine.

With a collective seat share of just 24, the government coalition has fallen well short of a majority. It will now have to rely on working with opposition parties on specific legislative proposals to push through government policy.

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The Senate wields considerable influence in the Netherlands, unlike many other European nations. While it cannot initiate legislation, it has the power to block government policy, and Thursday’s election suggests a period of sustained political stalemate for the country.

One victim of the election night was Thierry Baudet’s Freedom For Democracy (FvD) party. It saw its core voter base capitulate and is expected to lose 10 of its 12 seats. The collapse suggests the surge in support for BBB is to a large degree off the back of deep anti-government and right-wing sentiment.


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