The Dutch farmer’s party is ready to fight a general election, its leader said, after the Netherlands’ government collapsed amid divisions over migration.

The campaign comes after The Farmers-Citizen Movement’s (BBB) landslide victory in March’s regional elections, which were dominated by tractor protests against green legislation

“The banners and flags are still in the shed,” said Caroline van der Plas, the party’s leader, after prime minister Mark Rutte’s ruling coalition collapsed on Friday night. 

Asked if she harboured ambitions of becoming prime minister, Ms van der Plas said: “If it comes, it comes.”

Ms van der Plas posted a picture of herself smiling on an outdoor terrace on social media, along with the caption: “How did you look when the cabinet fell?”

Recent polls show the BBB is set to become the equal largest Dutch party after an election, which is now expected in November.

In March, it came from nowhere to become the largest party in all 12 Dutch provinces in a vote that became a referendum on Mr Rutte’s 13 years in office.

Mr Rutte’s conservative VVD, currently the largest party, is predicted to be the other dominant political force. 

Ms van der Plas, who is currently the BBB’s sole MP and only founded the party in 2019, is open to entering a coalition with the VVD. 

But she has ruled out such a pact if Mr Rutte, the Netherlands longest-serving prime minister, is leading it. 

The BBB blames Mr Rutte for pushing for compulsory farm buyouts to reduce nitrogen emissions and meet EU climate targets

It had predicted Mr Rutte’s coalition would not long survive the BBB’s triumph in March, even though a general election was not due until 2025.

However, it was not the nitrogen crisis that ended Mr Rutte’s fourth coalition government, but rather his push to restrict the right of asylum seekers to bring their families to the Netherlands. 

Mr Rutte had called for a crackdown on family reunification, but that infuriated two of the four parties in the ruling coalition of conservatives and liberals.

He was accused of adopting a “my way or the highway” attitude after a week of late night talks to salvage the government failed.

“It is no secret that the coalition partners have very different views on migration policy,” Mr Rutte said in the Hague on Friday. 

“Unfortunately, we have to draw the conclusion that those differences are irreconcilable.”

Mr Rutte said that he had the energy and ideas to continue as leader of the VVD, but said he would consult with the party leadership before deciding whether to continue. 

“I’m going to think about it for a while,” said a politician, who is nicknamed “Teflon Mark” for his ability to emerge from crises unscathed. 

Mr Rutte met King Willem-Alexander to explain the situation on Saturday at the Huis ten Bosch Palace in The Hague.

He had already handed in his resignation to the King in writing. The monarch interrupted his holiday and returned to the Netherlands in the morning to meet Mr Rutte for an hour.

Afterwards, the politician refused to comment and said that talks with the King were always confidential.

The current government will continue in a caretaker capacity until after the elections.

Pipeline Observer


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