Today, members of the Provincial Council will elect the new Senate. With the resounding victory of the Farmer–Citizen Movement “BoerBurgerBeweging” (BBB) in the Provincial Council elections on 15 March, it is certain that the BBB will become the largest party in the Senate.
Since 15 March, it has already become clear on several fronts that this victory has implications for national politics. Among others, Eurocommissioner Frans Timmermans and Prime Minister Mark Rutte visited BBB leader Caroline van der Plas. Nitrogen policy seems to be one of the main topics directly affected by BBB’s victory. This must be a foretaste of what is in store for Rutte, as he cannot ignore Van der Plas and her BBB on other issues as well. Incidentally, Rutte has dealt with this axe before, so far he has always managed to make creative use of changing majorities.
With still only 1 seat in the House of Representatives, the BBB will soon dominate the Senate. As of today, the BBB is expected to have 17 of the 75 seats in the Senate. Still far from a majority, but by far the largest party in the Senate and only 5 seats less than the entire coalition put together.
This is – also for Rutte – a new situation though, as if he wants to bypass the BBB, he will have to gather at least 14 seats from other parties besides his own coalition parties to convince a majority in the Senate of the cabinet’s plans. In this case, this means GroenLinks (Greens) and PvdA (Labour), which, under Paul Rosenmöller’s leadership, appear to have 15 seats together. Or a non-obvious combination of several small parties could also bring in enough seats together.
Of course, this is a real political challenge and then it can be easier to have only one party to commit to your plans, especially if that party has only one seat in the House of Representatives. No, despite all his flexibility, Rutte cannot ignore Caroline van der Plas. And since Van der Plas cannot do it all alone, it is good to see who will soon be in the Senate on behalf of the BBB. The first 17 BBB candidates for the Senate include a former VVD MP in place 3, while the list leader was also a VVD member for many years. They bring their knowledge and experience with them, which is not necessarily an advantage for Rutte. It also gives the BBB quite a bit of blocking power.
Policy influencers, therefore, bet on the Senate and especially on BBB Senators in the coming period. Because even if the Rutte IV cabinet falls this summer, the Senate will still be in this new composition for four years.