A young Dutch political party seeking to push back against the government’s climate agenda won a stunning victory on Wednesday, gaining the most seats for a single party in the Dutch Senate.
“This is not normal, but it really is! They are 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 will no longer be ignored.”
The Farmer-Citizen Movement Party, known as BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) in Dutch, built its victory on protests against the government’s environmental policies, which aim to drastically reduce nitrogen emissions by drastically reducing the number of head of livestock and buying thousands of farms. Nitrate and ammonia pollution have a significant impact on biodiversity, especially air and water quality.
The party appears on course to take 15 of 75 seats in the Senate – more seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Conservative VVD party – with almost 20% of the vote, according to the BBC. Rutte built his victory on the basis of a four-party coalition, which will now control a total of 24 seats.
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“Now is the time to take citizens seriously. I am open to talks with everyone. We are ready,” she added.
About 57.5% of voters turned out for the election, marking the largest turnout in years.
Voters argue that the government’s approach does not support farmers and that the government’s plan is “not good” for them as it stands.
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However, the other big winner of the evening was the coalition of the Greens and the centre-left Labor Party, an environment-focused group which has argued that climate problems will not go away. The left coalition also won 15 seats, drawing BBB.
The findings primarily indicate that Rutte’s remaining time in office could prove difficult as he faces the challenge of passing any legislation requiring Senate support.
Rutte congratulated the BBB, saying party leader van der Plas “looks like a big winner tonight,” but stressed that his coalition remains a majority in the Senate.
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In a comment to the Associated Press, Rutte downplayed the impact the BBB victory could have on immediate government proceedings.
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“I really think it’s elections for the provinces and water authorities,” Rutte said. “And of course also for the Senate, so there is also something of national politics in that sense, but I would be careful to draw very big conclusions from such an outcome.”
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.