SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

Dutch farmers-led party wins big in regional elections

The four Dutch coalition parties have been dealt significant losses in this week's elections across the country's 12 provinces, according to preliminary results, triggering political upheaval.

According to Thursday's preliminary results, the coalition will have just under a third of the 75 seats in the Senate.

The losses threaten the stability of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's government, raising questions about its ability to push through important laws on agricultural reform, climate protection and asylum policy.

"This is not the victory we had hoped for," Rutte said following the initial forecasts.

He has been prime minister since 2010.

The day after Wednesday's election, newspapers wrote about a "historic lesson" and a "reckoning with the Rutte government".

The big winner was the populist BoerBurgerBeweging (Farmer-Citizen Movement), or BBB, garnering 19 per cent of votes, according to preliminary results published by broadcaster NOS overnight.

In the first chamber, it won 15 seats and came level with the Social Democrats and the Greens, who for the first time ran together and made slight gains.

The co-ruling Christian Democrats, on the other hand, lost almost half of their mandates.

The farmers-led BBB has gained popularity as a voice opposing the government's proposed environmental regulations to cut nitrogen emission levels.

Farmers have protested the measures for several years, at times using violence.

About 13 million Dutch citizens were called to vote in the election that determines the parliaments of the country's 12 provinces.

The vote indirectly decided the composition of the Senate, or upper house, of the parliament.

Observers believe the election results will cause political upheaval for Rutte's coalition.

Although the elections were only regional, they send a bigger signal of the tensions being caused by crucial issues around climate change for example.

The populist BBB have demanded that the planned interventions in intensive agriculture be taken off the table.

In contrast, the governing party D66 confirmed that it would stick to its "progressive agenda," for example on climate protection and agriculture.

The farmers' anger, however, became an expression of a general discontent.

"BBB is the mouthpiece of this discontent," wrote the NRC Handelsblad.

BBB chair Caroline van der Plas said voters had sent a clear signal.

"You can no longer ignore us. We will enter government," she said.

At the local level, the provinces decide on road construction and transport policy as well as environmental protection and housing construction.

Especially in rural areas, BBB gained ground and could become the strongest force.

The party, a first-time participant in the provincial elections, only has one seat in the Dutch parliament.

BBB became strong not only in rural areas but also in many cities.

Populist parties have dominated the national debate for more than 20 years and are growing further in strength.

This week's election result suggests that anger towards the established parties in The Hague is showing no sign of dying down.

"Now something must finally change," BBB leader van der Plas said.

Dutch citizens also voted for the composition of the country's water management authority on Wednesday, the results of which are expected by next week at the earliest.