A fledgling Dutch political party trying to roll back the government’s climate agenda scored a resounding victory on Wednesday as it won the most seats for a single party in the Dutch Senate.
“It’s not normal, but actually it is! It’s all normal citizens who voted,” said party leader Caroline van der Plas. “But today people have shown that they can no longer stay at home. We are no longer ignored.”
The Farmers Citizens Movement Party, known in Dutch as BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB), built its victory on protests against the government’s environmental policies, which aim to cut nitrogen emissions through drastic livestock reductions and the buyout of thousands of farms . Nitrate and ammonia pollution significantly affect biodiversity, especially air and water quality.
The party appears on course to take 15 of the 75 Senate seats – more seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party – with nearly 20% of the vote, according to the BBC. Rutte built his victory on the back of a four-party coalition that will now control a total of 24 seats.
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“Now is the time to take citizens seriously. I’m open to conversations with everyone. We’re ready,” she added.
Around 57.5% of voters took part in the election, marking the highest turnout in years.
Voters argue that the government’s approach is not supportive of farmers and that the government’s plan, as it stands, is “not good” for them.
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The other big winner that night, however, was the coalition of the Greens and the centre-left Labor Party, a pro-environmental group which argued that climate problems will not simply go away. The Left Coalition also won 15 seats, joining BBB.
The findings mainly suggest that Rutte’s remaining term in office could prove difficult as he faces the challenge of enforcing legislation that needs Senate support.
Rutte congratulated BBB and said party leader van der Plas “looks like a big winner tonight” but stressed his coalition remains majority power in the Senate.
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In a comment to the Associated Press, Rutte downplayed the impact the BBB’s victory could have on immediate government processes.
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“I really think it’s provincial and water board elections,” Rutte said. “And of course also for the Senate, in that respect there is also something of national politics in it, but I would be careful to draw very big conclusions from such a result.”
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.
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