Dutch farmers turn protests into vote victory

Dutch farmers turn protests into vote victory

Dutch farmers turn protests into vote victory

Dutch farmers dealt a blow to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s environmental plans on March 15, ploughing up the political landscape to win elections that will shape the upper house of parliament.

Exit polls showed the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BoerBurgerBeweging, BBB), which was founded less than four years ago, riding a wave of recent protests to win the most seats in the Dutch senate.

The farmers’ party immediately vowed to challenge the Rutte government’s plans to cut nitrogen emissions by reducing livestock numbers and possibly closing some farms.

“What is happening here? We really knew we were going to win, but this is so indescribable,” stunned BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told public broadcaster NOS.

She described the nitrogen plans as a “kind of dogma dictated from The Hague.”

The BBB is on course to win 15 seats in the 75-seat senate, ahead of the 10 seats of Rutte’s center-right party, based on exit polls from provincial elections that also determine the make-up of the upper house.

The farmers could now work with other parties in the senate to block nitrogen legislation proposed by Rutte’s four-party coalition, which is on course to lose eight seats to put its total at 24.

The Dutch government says it needs to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50 percent by 2030, blaming fertilizers and manure from agriculture in particular for pollution.

But the farmers say they are being unfairly targeted by the still unfinalized proposals compared to sectors such as construction, industry and transport.