Netherlands Vote As Social Turmoil Threatens Government

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | Tag Cloud

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (Worthy News) – Dutch voters began voting Wednesday in local elections that will impact the national legislature when the country’s longtime prime minister faces the worst social turmoil in years.

Mark Rutte, in power, since 2010 and seen as a “Survivor-in-Chief,” is under pressure as newly elected provincial lawmakers pick a new upper house of the Netherlands’ parliament, the Senate, in May.

A significant shift could affect Rutte’s four-party center-right coalition’s ability to pass laws to deal with issues ranging from massive migration to environmental policies that have led to huge farmers’ protests, including Saturday.

Farmers say the government-imposed nitrogen reduction policies threaten their livelihood and will mean the end of one of the world’s best agriculture industries. The fishermen have similar concerns about environmental policies, with footage emerging of some having to destroy their family vessels.

Rutte also faces scrutiny after a series of scandals, including uncovered years-long ethnic profiling by tax authorities of thousands of parents receiving child benefits.

As a result, close to 1,700 children were forcefully removed from their parents while 70,000 children were suffering, with many parents divorcing or, in some case committing suicide due to scandal-related stress.

Additionally, a recent report condemned the Rutte administration’s policies towards thousands of people in the northern province of Groningen who suffered years of earthquakes caused by natural gas exploration.


High energy prices that Rutte links to the war in Ukraine but his opponents to “climate-change projects,” such as phasing out fossil fuels and introducing giant “birds-killing wind turbines” and solar panels, have added to the debate.

And with poverty spreading due to rising costs of living and reports that hungry children pass out at school, tv commentators wondered whether the 56-year-old ever considered resigning.

The single-living liberal Rutte answered that he would only step down if he felt he had nothing to contribute to “this great country.”

Yet his conservative-liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) faces a strong challenge from the BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmer-Citizen Movement, or BBB). It was launched in 2019 with just one legislator, Caroline van der Plas, who once famously arrived driving a tractor to Parliament.

Her people-against-the-elites platform has struck a chord with disaffected voters, and polls suggest it could finish as the second-largest or even the largest party in Wednesday’s vote.

She is especially popular in traditional farming areas and provinces, where campaigns have ranged from helping farmers to overcoming dwindling public transport and how to accommodate thousands of migrants and environmental issues.

Some polls suggested the BBB might win 13 of 75 seats in the Senate, which has the power to block legislation agreed upon in the Lower House of parliament, with the VVD dropping from 12 to 10 seats.


The often laughing Rutte has tried to focus his campaign on left-leaning parties and refused to have a crucial television debate with the BBB leader.

Amid the turmoil, Rutte’s government, in its fourth consecutive term since 2010, has dropped to a 20 percent approval rating, its lowest in a decade.

Most polling stations across the Netherlands opened at 07:30 local time and were to close at 20:00, with officials’ results due by early Thursday.

For Bob De Jong, a farmer from the Dutch agricultural heartland of North Brabant province, it is clear that voters should cast their ballots against the political elite.

He warned said that if the current “corrupt” lawmakers remained in power, “no farmer in Holland will survive.”

De Jong spoke Saturday as farmers gathered in a central park in the south of The Hague.

At the same time, Mayor Jan van Zanen gave police permission to use a water cannon on the climate change crisis warners of the Extinction Rebellion protesters. Several wet activists later received dry clothing from the fire brigade in The Hague due to the cold temperatures.

Unlike the farmers, Extinction Rebellion blocked a major highway in the downtown area of The Hague near the temporary home of the Dutch parliament.

Whatever the outcome of Wednesday’s vote, the debate about the future of this low-lying seafaring nation has just begun.

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