A farmers’ protest party looks set to shake up the political landscape in the Netherlands, with polls indicating it will be the big winner in provincial elections that determine the make-up of the Senate.
The BBB or BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmer-Civilian Movement) party is expected to ride a wave of protests against the government’s environmental policies and is poised to win more Senate seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party, a poll by research company I&O showed last week.
The poll indicated BBB might win 13 of a total of 75 seats in the Senate, which has the power to block legislation agreed in the Lower House of parliament, with the VVD dropping from 12 to 10 seats.
This would further complicate the position of Rutte’s governing coalition, which has not had a Senate majority since the previous provincial elections in 2019 and must negotiate deals with left-wing opponents.
The two most cooperative parties, Labour and GreenLeft, look set to hold on to their seats, keeping their combined group slightly bigger than BBB and possibly enough to maintain support for Rutte’s policies.
Still, a meteoric rise would give the BBB significant influence, especially over policies aimed at limiting nitrogen pollution on farms, the single issue upon which it was founded in 2019.
The Dutch government aims to cut these emissions in half by 2030, as relatively large numbers of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers have led to levels of nitrogen oxides in the soil and water that violate European Union regulations.
The BBB says the problem has been exaggerated and that proposed solutions will lead to farm closures and food production shortages.
The party won a single Lower House seat in 2021, but its popularity has surged on the back of growing distrust of the government and anger over issues such as immigration.
Rutte’s government, in its fourth consecutive term since 2010, has dropped to a 20% approval rating, its lowest in a decade.
Most polling stations across the Netherlands will open at 0630 GMT on Wednesday and close at 2000 GMT, when a first exit poll will be published. Official results are expected to come in early on Thursday.