Election results: Dutch farmers party BBB wins big in provincial elections

Election results: Dutch farmers party BBB wins big in provincial elections

On Wednesday, expats and Dutch citizens across the country went to the polls to cast their votes in the 2023 provincial and water board elections. Here’s a quick rundown of what happened. 

High turnout for 2023 Dutch provincial elections

Every four years, the Netherlands holds elections so citizens and residents can vote for representatives on their Provincial Council and water board (waterschap). The results of the provincial elections can have significant effects on the governing and policies of the country, as the results also determine the makeup of the Senate (Eerste Kamer). 

This year saw the highest turnout for provincial elections the Netherlands has seen in 36 years, with 58,3 percent of the Dutch population turning up to cast their votes on March 15. In the provincial elections four years ago, turnout was 56 percent.

BBB set to claim 17 seats in Eerste Kamer, coalition parties to lose 10

The high turnout led to big wins for the BoerBurgerBeweging, or Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB). The BBB, led by Caroline van der Plas, has won 17 of the 75 seats in the Senate, making it one of the biggest parties in the Eerste Kamer. It’s estimated that the party claimed 19,4 percent of the national vote.

BBB shares that achievement with the political left, as together, GroenLinks and the Labour Party (PvdA) have 15 seats. Meanwhile, the four coalition parties - People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), D66, Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and Christian Union (CU) - have seen their number fall from 32 to just 22.

Relative newcomer Van der Plas has been making waves in the Dutch political scene since launching her party at the end of 2019. As a result of the 2021 general election, the BBB occupies one seat in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). Now, following this historic win, it has become the largest party in all 12 provinces.

Van der Plas' historic win could spell trouble for Rutte's cabinet

In the past three elections, the BBB’s campaign has largely focused on the cabinet’s nitrogen policy, rising up the polls as a representative for farmers who feel betrayed by the government’s 10-step plan, designed to reduce nitrogen emissions by 50 percent in the Gelderse Vallei, North Brabant and Limburg by 2030.

In response to the exit polls published after voting closed on March 15, Van der Plas said the high turnout and results show how dissatisfied Dutch citizens have become with politics: “Normally, people stay at home if they no longer have confidence in politics, but today they showed that they no longer stay at home. They have made their voices heard.”

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, on the other hand, had an altogether less successful night. Not only does the BBB’s success spell trouble for his coalition and nitrogen policy, but with his party (the VVD) set to lose two Senate seats and his coalition partners CDA set to lose four, the coalition’s mandate in the Senate is in jeopardy. 

CDA leader Wopke Hoekstra described the results as “a landslide in size, an extremely bitter pill”, but when talking to NOS, Rutte was confident that, while the outcome was “not the profit [he] wanted", it would have “no immediate consequences for the country’s governability” and “the cabinet would remain stable in the coming years.”

BBB, Water Natuurlijk and PvdD big winners in water board elections

Non-Dutch citizens (i.e. expats and internationals living in the Netherlands) were only eligible to vote in the water board elections. The Dutch water boards are extremely important, as they are responsible for water management in the Netherlands - managing the country’s polders, dikes, and other waterworks - but have fewer knock-on effects on the makeup of the Dutch government.

On Thursday, March 23, the definitive results of the water board elections were announced. Once again BBB had something to celebrate, after the party was declared the largest in 13 out of the 21 water boards in the Netherlands, claiming a whopping 118 of the 518 seats that were up for grabs.

Water Natuurlijk (GroenLinks, Volt and D66) also did fairly well, becoming the largest party in five of the water boards and winning a total of 91 seats, up from the 85 they won in the 2019 elections. Party for the Animals (PvdD) rose from just 17 seats to 37, while the VVD and CDA fell from 70 and 60 to 55 and 35 respectively.

Thumb: Ruud Morijn Photographer via

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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