A political party that promises to give voice to the countryside against the dictates of the capital and its environmental policies has become the most voted force in the local and provincial elections held in the Netherlands. The result of these elections, held on Wednesday, has national consequences, since they determine the composition of the Senate and portends difficult times for the coalition government led by Liberal Mark Rutte and its plans to reduce nitrogen emissions through a drastic expropriation plan aimed at closing farms.
"The Netherlands has clearly shown that we are fed up with these policies", Caroline van der Plas, leader of the BBB party (Moviment Camperol Ciudadà, in its Dutch acronym), declared last night on the public channel NOS. "It's not just about nitrogen, it's about the citizens who are not seen and who are not heard; they are not taken seriously and their problems are not faced". With 19% of the votes cast in the provincial assembly elections, the BBB will become the political force with the most representation in the Senate, where it will win 15 seats. Only the alliance formed by social democrats (PvdA) and greens (GroenLinks), which also have quite a number of representatives, can allow the Government coalition to bypass the opposition bloc of the BBB to go ahead with certain decisions, but they are asking for the opposite: more ambitious measures .
Founded in 2019, the Moviment Camperol Ciudadà won its first seat in the 2021 general elections. On the day of the composition of the new Parliament, Van der Plas, a former journalist specializing in agriculture, stood in The Hague mounted on a tractor Since that day she has been an omnipresent figure in the Dutch political debate and has become the heroine of the thousands of farmers who have been demonstrating against the Government's plans to meet the climate goals that have been set for a year marked the country, partly derived from its commitments with Europe.
The political credo of the BBB, which has obtained good results not only in the countryside but also in the cities, oscillates between ultra-right positions regarding immigration and asylum, Euroscepticism (they call for a return to the idea of the union of “sovereign countries”) and rather progressive postulates on issues such as healthcare and taxation (they want more taxes on big corporations and defend public transport) while they are betting on nuclear energy.
If the latest French social dissatisfaction was manifested through yellow vests, in the Netherlands the piece with which it is manifested is the red scarf typical of rural areas. Van der Plas adopted him from day one. In the border regions of Flanders (Belgium), where measures to reduce agricultural emissions have also caused protests, it is common to see red handkerchiefs in houses as a sign of support.
The big loser of the night was the far-right party Forum for Democracy led by Thierry Baudet, which last year became the most voted force in these same elections and has now practically evaporated. Nor did it go well for the parties in the Government coalition, which lost a total of eight seats. Those who come out most affected are the Christian Democrats [CDA], severely punished by the leakage of votes to the BBB, and the liberals, the formation to which the prime minister belongs. "This is not the victory we wanted", acknowledged Rutte, who expressed his confidence in the stability of the Government.
At the center of the debates have been its plans to reduce nitrate emissions by 50% by 2030, a greenhouse gas that agricultural operations emit in abundance. The Hague intends to dedicate 25,000 million euros to reduce livestock by 30% through economic incentives or, if necessary, expropriations. In some provinces, as they are in protected areas, emissions must be reduced by 95%.
The field, however, believes it is being treated unfairly compared to other sectors that also produce high emissions, such as industry or transport. The elections demonstrate the extent to which these debates polarize society. The Greens and the Social Democrats promised the opposite at the BBB: to pressure the Government for a more ambitious energy transition. "In the Senate, there are two alternatives: to the right, or to the left," said environmentalist leader Jesse Klaver, who will once again test the legendary resilience of Rutte, who has been in power since 2010.