THE HAGUE, March 16 (Xinhua) -- The Dutch pro-farmers party BBB became the big winner in Wednesday's provincial elections in the Netherlands, according to preliminary results published by Dutch news agency ANP on Thursday.
With 85 percent of the votes counted, the Farmer-Citizen Movement, known by its Dutch acronym BBB, received over 19 percent, suggesting 15 of the 75 seats in the senate, according to the results.
So far the BBB has to share the lead with the leftist combination of PvdA/GroenLinks (Labor/GreenLeft), which participated in these elections together. The final results will follow on March 23 or 24.
"This is not normal, I never expected this," BBB leader Caroline van der Plas said. "The main thing is that farmers should have a future."
The nitrogen crisis was one of the main themes in the pre-election campaigns. The farmers do not agree with the planned nitrogen reduction policy of the government and have been protesting for over a year.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has committed to halving nitrogen emissions in the country by 2030. Levels of nitrogen oxides in the country's air and water are currently higher than what the European Union regulations allow.
Farmers say that the new regulations to cut nitrogen emissions have been exaggerated and current proposals to solve the problem are unfair and ineffective.
The gains of BBB and, to a lesser extent, those of the left-wing block PvdA/GroenLinks represent a major blow to the four parties in the governing coalition. The dissatisfaction with the government seems to have led to numerous protest votes.
The four governing parties, the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), Democrats 66 and the Christian parties CDA and CU, dropped from 32 to 24 seats together in the senate, according to the ANP projection.
The VVD alone went down from 10 to 8 seats. With a loss of 8 seats, from 10 to 2 in the senate, the right wing populist Forum for Democracy was the biggest loser.
Rutte, who led the VVD, called the election results "not the gain we wanted," but added he did not expect major consequences for his government.
Although the Dutch vote for the members of the 12 provincial councils and 21 water authorities, they indirectly also elect a new senate, because the members of the provincial councils will choose the composition of the senate on May 30 this year.
The political balance in the new senate will therefore be of great importance for the political power of the current government coalition.
A majority in the senate is crucial for passing new laws, because for law-making in the Netherlands a majority is needed in both the house of representatives and the senate.
The turnout so far was 57.5 percent, compared to 56.2 percent four years ago, which already was the highest in provincial elections since 1987, when more than 66 percent of electorate went to vote.
The BBB, which debuted in the provincial elections, became the biggest winner in the provinces of Overijssel, Zeeland, Drenthe and Flevoland, where all votes have been counted. In Overijssel and Drenthe, the BBB even received over 30 percent of the votes. ■