UPDATE DUTCH POLITICS: farmers’ party BBB big winner Provincial Elections

Farmers' party BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) and left-wing alliance of PvdA (Social Democrats) and GroenLinks (Greens) on course to become biggest parties in the senate.

  • Yesterday (15 March, 2023) the Provincial Elections took place in the Netherlands, in which (according to the latest polls) 57,5% of eligible voters participated and voted for 12 Provincial Councils. These Councils will in turn elect the senate on 30 May. The elections strongly take on the character of ‘mid-terms’ for the Rutte-IV cabinet, with coalition parties bracing themselves for the election outcome’s impact on the government’s future. The coalition already lacks 6 seats in the Senate, and polls suggest this number may double.
  • The BBB or ‘BoerBurgerBeweging’ (‘Farmer–Citizen Movement’), led by Caroline van der Plas, emerged as the clear winner of the elections. The party’s rise has been fuelled by protests against the government’s environmental policies, particularly those aimed at limiting nitrogen pollution on farms. The BBB has criticized the proposed solutions, claiming they will lead to farm closures and food production shortages. While the BBB had only secured one seat in the Lower House in 2021, the latest polls suggest that they are on track to become the biggest party in the senate with 15 out of 75 seats. This could further complicate the position of Rutte’s government in the senate,
  • In addition, two left-wing parties, PvdA (Social Democrats) and GroenLinks (Greens), which are forming an alliance in the Senate, are also on course to become the biggest party in the senate. This makes the position of the current coalition government, consisting of VVD (Liberal Conservatives), CDA (Christian Democrats), D66 (Liberal Democrats) and ChristenUnie (Christian Conservatives) even more difficult, also because they are all set to lose seats.
  • This shift in power will make it more complicated to pass legislation in the Senate, compounding the challenges already faced by Rutte’s coalition, which has been without a Senate majority since the 2019 Provincial Elections and must negotiate with both left-leaning opponents and a growing right-wing populist bloc.
  • The Provincial Councils are scheduled to elect the Senate on 30 May this year, with the new Senators expected to attend their first meeting on 13 June. Following the European elections in May 2024, the next Dutch elections concern the Lower House in 2025.
  • These elections were also about voting for members of the Waterschappen (‘Water Authorities’), which are responsible for managing water resources and protecting the country from flooding, particularly in the face of climate change.
  • The table below shows the preliminary results of yesterday’s Provincial Elections compared to the results of the municipal elections of 2022. It should be noted that the figures of the 2023 elections are preliminary, as not all votes have been processed yet.
Party Municipal Elections (2022) Provincial Elections (2023)
preliminary results
BBB – Farmer–Citizen Movement 0.64% 19.5%
VVD – Liberal Conservatives 11.7% 11.1%
CDA – Christian Democrats 11.2% 6.7%
D66 – Liberal Democrats 8.8% 6.4%
GroenLinks – Greens 8.5% 8.8%
PvdA – Social Democrats 7.9% 7.9%
ChristenUnie – Christian Conservatives 3.9% 3.6%
SP – Socialist Party 2.8% 4.3%
SGP – Christian Conservatives 2.3% 2.7%
Partij voor de Dieren – Animal Party 2% 4.7%
FvD – Forum for Democracy 1.1% 3.1%
DENK – Pro-immigrant Party 1% 0.6%
PVV – Freedom Party 0.9% 5.8%
Volt – Pro-European party 0.8% 2.9%
50PLUS – Elderly Party 0.6% 2.3%
BVNL – Conservative right-wing 0.3% 1.0%
JA21 – Conservative Liberals 0.2% 4.51%

"The BBB or 'BoerBurgerBeweging' ('Farmer–Citizen Movement'), led by Caroline van der Plas, emerged as the clear winner of the elections."

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