New Farmers Party Wins Dutch Vote (Worthy News Radio)

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New Farmers Party Wins Dutch Vote (Worthy News Radio)

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS (Worthy News) – A new farmers’ party whose leader was once ridiculed for arriving by tractor at Parliament won the most votes in Dutch local elections, which will impact the composition of the Senate.

The outcome came after the government was pressured over several scandals and environmental plans that farmers say threaten their livelihood. As a result, there are concerns within the cabinet of Prime Minister Mark Rutte that they won’t be able to meet environmental demands by the European Union.

Caroline van der Plas appeared visibly moved as the win for her BBB or BoerBurgerBeweging (FarmerCitizen Movement) was seen as a decisive protest vote against Prime Minister Rutte and his four-party center-right governing coalition. “With a group of 26 people, we managed to get one seat in Parliament two years ago. While I was in Parliament, we worked very hard to put the citizen first,” she told her supporters.

The 55-year-old’s victory came as voters decided on the representatives in the Netherlands’ 12 provincial legislatures. Under Dutch election law, they determine the makeup of the country’s Senate, which can block legislation agreed upon in the Lower House of Parliament.

The first results showed that the BBB won 15 of 75 seats in the Senate. Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal-conservative People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, dropped from 12 to 10 seats.

The setback for the 56-year-old prime minister followed social turmoil, such as environmental policies that critics say threaten the livelihood of farmers, fishermen, and others.

There was also public anger about scandals ranging from ethnic profiling by tax authorities of parents receiving child benefits impacting 70,000 children, with nearly 1,700 children being taken from their homes. Because of the scandal, parents divorced or, in some cases, even committed suicide.


Additionally, voters expressed anger over inadequate compensation for thousands suffering from earthquakes in the northeastern province of Groningen due to natural gas exploration.

And outrage emerged over massive immigration in a nation where many youngsters can’t start a family due to a lack of affordable housing, rising energy prices, and related poverty. Prime Minister Rutte said he realized that the political landscape had changed. “Of course, for the VVD, I would have preferred victory,” he said.

“But, unfortunately, we went down from 13.3 percent of voters to 12.8 percent. That is half a percentage backward. But of course, now we have to think how we can help the provinces as VVD to take responsibility for policies.”

However, Wednesday’s vote cast doubts over Rutte’s plans to reduce farm nitrate pollution as his cabinet tasked provincial legislatures with radically developing strategies to reduce emissions.

The results also overshadow the remainder of his term as he will likely face problems getting legislation through the Senate.

But the BBB and several other parties argue that Dutch agriculture, among the best in the world, has already taken measures and that the
nitrogen concerns are “exaggerated.”

The government says the policies are demanded by the EU, of which the Netherlands is a founding member. But Van der Plas linked the policy to opposition within left-leaning parties towards livestock farming, with the Netherlands being the most prominent agriculture exporter after the United States.


She was surprised that more Dutch voters supported her views than she expected. “I really did not expect this. But, of course, we went here to celebrate because we realized we would have seats anyway and that we would be the biggest party in a few provinces. But now we are the biggest party,” she noted.

With much of the Netherlands below sea level, her party was also expected to play a role in waterboards, which were also elected by the Dutch in this low-lying nation. The next national elections were scheduled for 2025 but could now be moved forward.

Despite the outcome, the government still aims to cut nitrogen emissions in half by 2030, saying relatively large numbers of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers have led to levels of nitrogen oxides in the soil and water that violate EU regulations. Prime Minister Rutte says the BBB awaits difficult decisions. “Nitrogen is a complicated topic. But we can’t deny that there are no problems. In the southern province of Brabant, for instance, no houses or a motorway can be built due to nitrogen pollution. So we need to find a solution with a strong farmers sector.”

Commentators said Rutte’s VVD will now have to reach out to “climate change-crisis-preaching” Labour and GreenLeft, who looked set to have held on to their seats.

Thousands of farmers and their supporters were those protesting in recent days in a park near the temporary Parliament building in The Hague. “People are being made afraid,” a woman complained at the protest. “They say ‘agriculture is against nature.’ But they don’t speak about other kinds of environmental pollution. Think about plastics or the loss of bees. It is only about farmers. They use strange arguments to force farmers out of their lands.”

BBB leader Van der Plas has urged Prime Minister Rutte to step out of what she called his “cocoon” and listen to the people. In its fourth consecutive term since 2010, Rutte’s government has dropped to a 20 percent approval rating, its lowest in a decade.

One of the longest-ruling European leaders, he has so far refused to resign, saying he still feels he could help improve life in the Netherlands.

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