BBB leader Caroline van der Plas has said she would not rule out becoming prime minister if the farmers’ party emerges as the largest group at the general election.
The BBB topped the poll in provincial elections in March and are currently running neck-and-neck in the opinion polls with the VVD, the party of outgoing prime minister Mark Rutte, on around 26 seats.
It is far from clear if the BBB will retain its position through the election campaign. The provincial elections were dominated by the BBB’s agenda, as regional governments have a big role to play in farming reforms, whereas the general election is likely to be fought on issues such as immigration and welfare.
Van der Plas told Trouw last week, before Rutte resigned, that she saw the job of prime minister as “not for me” because it would detach her from her voter base.
“You never get a moment’s rest in politics, you’re on the go 24 hours a day. Sometimes I need a period without debates.”
But on Monday she tracked back, saying she would consider the job provided she could focus on domestic issues and leave international affairs in the hands of the foreign minister.
“If you asked me now, I’d say I’m not doing it,” she said. “It would only be an option if I can be a prime minister for the Netherlands.”
Van der Plas said the BBB would continue to prioritise its core issues, such as the plans to cut nitrogen compound emissions, compensate farmers and make the agriculture sector more sustainable.
A poll for TV politics show EenVandaag indicated that the independent MP Pieter Omtzigt was the most popular choice of prime minister among voters, with 56% judging him as suitable for the job.
Van der Plas had the backing of 29%, behind two VVD politicians, the former justice minister Klaas Dijkhoff (46%) and the current office holder Dilan Yesilgöz (33%). However, Dijhoff has since ruled himself out as a contender to succeed Mark Rutte as VVD leader, saying he wants to concentrate on raising his family.
Media have speculated that Omtzigt could boost the BBB if he joins its list of candidates, but Van der Plas said she still needed to discuss the options with him.
She said that Omtzigt’s “track record and knowledge of the key issues”, as well as his popularity with voters, made him an attractive option for the BBB.
“I’m not hiding the fact that I rate Pieter very highly,” she said. “I’ve said before that I’m open to the idea, but Pieter has to be on board with it himself.”
Omtzigt, a former Christian Democrat (CDA) MP, split with the party two years ago after it emerged his position had been discussed during the exploratory talks to form Rutte’s last cabinet.
Outgoing CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra had previously spoken of trying to “temper” Omtzigt, whose work exposing the childcare benefits scandal was instrumental in triggering the resignation of the third Rutte cabinet.
Omtzigt would potentially draw votes not just from the CDA, but also hard-right party JA21 and even the Socialist Party (SP) because of his record on social issues, EenVandaag’s poll found.
Back in April he told Hart van Nederland he was not interested in a pact with the BBB and preferred to continue as a solo MP, but the prospect of an election could change his mind.
“I can work very well with Caroline van der Plas, but I want to develop my own ideas about securing living standards and good practice in government,” he said.
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