A farmers’ protest party angered by new green laws triumphed in shock Dutch election results, prompting its leader to ask: “People, what the f— happened?”
Caroline van der Plas’s Farmers-Citizen Movement (BBB) is projected to become the equal largest party in the senate, taking 15 seats from none before the vote.
The Left-wing GroenLinks/PvdA is also expected to win 15 seats, in the wake of months of turbulent farmer protests against government plans to cut nitrogen emissions.
Mark Rutte, the centre-Right Dutch prime minister, insisted his coalition government would survive, after its four member parties lost eight of their combined 32 seats in the 75-seat senate
“This is not the result we wanted,” he said, after projections showed his VVD party was on course to win 10 seats.
Mr Rutte’s government plans to meet EU climate targets by reducing livestock and through compulsory farm buyouts to reduce nitrogen emitted by manure and fertilisers.
The protests have drawn global attention, and garnered the support of the former US president Donald Trump, as well as conspiracy theorists who claim the farmers are victims of a “globalist” plot to steal their land.
The BBB’s victory means the farmers can form alliances with other parties in the senate and block green legislation, in a country that is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter after the US.
“It is not just about nitrogen,” Ms van der Plas said on Wednesday night, adding that people in the Netherlands were “fed up”.
The BBB’s meteoric rise is particularly astonishing because it was only founded in October 2019 and won a single seat in the Dutch parliament in 2021’s general election.
But the latest elections turned into a de facto referendum on Mr Rutte, who is the longest-serving prime minister in the Netherlands’ history and has been in office since 2010.
The Dutch broadcaster NOS published an Ipsos poll that showed 60 per cent of voters wanted to express their views on the government and 46 per cent of them were against its policies.
Newspaper AD predicted Mr Rutte would struggle to keep his government together after BBB’s huge victory.
“Rutte must pull out all the stops to keep his Cabinet afloat, it it doesn’t already fall apart due to internal quarrels,” it said on Thursday.
Turn out in the vote was 57.5 per cent.