Farmers’ Protest Party Set to Shake up Dutch Political Landscape

It appears that on Wednesday, in provincial elections that will determine the make-up of the Senate in the Netherlands, a farmers’ protest party will be the big winner.

Based on the results of a poll conducted by the research firm I&O last week, it appears that the Boer Burger Beweging (Farmer-Civilian Movement) party, which is riding a wave of protests against the government’s environmental policies, will win more Senate seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party. Among the 75 senatorial seats up for grabs, the poll found that BBB stood a good chance of winning 13, while the VVD saw its representation drop from 12 to 10.

This would make things even more difficult for Rutte’s governing coalition, which has been without a Senate majority since the 2019 provincial elections and therefore needs to strike deals with opponents on the left.

The two most cooperative parties, Labour and GreenLeft, look set to hold on to their seats, keeping their combined group slightly bigger than BBB and possibly enough to maintain support for Rutte’s policies. The BBB was founded in 2019 on the issue of reducing nitrogen pollution from farms, and even if it never gained much traction beyond that, it would still have a significant impact.

Since the country’s relatively high livestock population and intensive fertiliser use have resulted in nitrogen oxides in the ground and water that exceed EU standards, the Dutch government has set a target of halving these emissions by the year 2030. The BBB says the problem has been exaggerated and that proposed solutions will lead to farm closures and food production shortages.

The party won a single Lower House seat in 2021, but its popularity has surged on the back of growing distrust of the government and anger over issues such as immigration. Rutte’s government, in its fourth consecutive term since 2010, has dropped to a 20% approval rating, its lowest in a decade. The first exit poll will be released at 2000 GMT on Wednesday, after polls close across the Netherlands. The polls will open at 06:30 GMT. Official results are expected to come in early on Thursday.