Saturday 01 April 2023

Rutte insists his coalition will survive BBB challenge in provinces

Mark Rutte will need to do deals with the left alliance of PvdA and GroenLinks in the Senate. Photo: ANP/Robin van Lonkhuijsen

Prime minister Mark Rutte has said the provincial election results will not jeopardise his government’s chances of survival, despite the strong performance of the farmers’ party BBB.

‘I think the cabinet can remain stable in the coming years, because we have parties that want to take responsibility,’ he told NOS as the results began to come in.

Counting was halted in dozens of municipalities and will not resume until this afternoon as counting teams struggled to deal with the highest turnout for provincial elections in 30 years.

With around 85% of votes counted, the BBB is set to take 15 seats in the senate, which will be elected by provincial assemblies in May, based on the national vote share in yesterday’s elections.

However, the alliance of Labour (PvdA) and GroenLinks is also on course for 15 seats, which would allow the coalition parties, with a projected 24 seats in the 75-member assembly, to secure a majority without the support of Caroline van der Plas’s party.

At provincial level, the BBB has been confirmed as the largest party in five assemblies and is set to top the poll in at least five of the remaining seven. In Drenthe and Overijssel it took more than 30% of the vote and will have 17 seats, while no other party won more than four.

The BBB’s lead is unassailable in all provinces except Utrecht, where GroenLinks holds a narrow lead, and Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland, where the BBB has a lead of less than 1% over the VVD.

‘Cabinet must go’

Van der Plas said the results showed that the Netherlands had ‘lost confidence in this government,’ but her party was prepared to work constructively to find solutions in the provinces.

The BBB was elected on a platform of opposing the government’s plans to buy out farmers in order to bring down nitrogen compound emissions, following a judgment by the Council of State that it was breaching European limits designed to protect conservation areas.

Van der Plas says she will not support compulsory buyouts, but the minister responsible for nitrogen, Christianne van der Wal, has said there is ‘no alternative’.

‘We are ready to sit down at the table with everyone in the provinces to see how we move forward,’ Van der Plas said.

‘The coalition needs to recognise that a very clear signal has been sent out that the Netherlands has lost confidence in this coalition. They have to go.

‘I think they need to face the consequences. How can you carry on in government if you have no support? It’s been clear for months that confidence in politics has reached a very low point.’

Provincial governments have been given a deadline of July 1 to come up with detailed plans for reducing nitrogen pollution that will be incorporated into the government’s strategy.

But the nitrogen law underpinning the plan also has to pass through the senate, where the left-wing alliance of PvdA and GroenLinks is threatening to block the bill unless it includes tougher measures against heavy industry and the aviation sector.

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