Universiteit Leiden

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Geerten Boogaard not concerned about conflict of interests at BBB

The fact that a significant number of seats in the Dutch provincial councils are now occupied by members of the Dutch Farmer-Citizen Movement (BoerBurgerBeweging, BBB) who have an agricultural background need not lead to conflicts of interest when voting on, for example, nitrogen emissions. This is the opinion of Geerten Boogaard, Professor of Local Government at Leiden University. ‘That’s excactly why we have laypersons on the boards in provincial politics as well, people with knowledge of practice.’

 ‘There are all sorts of concerns about the farmers, but this situation is not unique’, says Boogaard, who has conducted research on local democracy and decentralisation. ‘There have always been farmers in provincial politics and everyone in politics has a personal interest in decisions being taken.’ As an example, he cites a tax cut that benefits everyone. ‘If you have children, it doesn’t mean you should abstain from voting on matters related to education. If that was the case, there would be many abstentions.’

It's a different matter though when a so-called special personal interest is involved. Suppose you own a garage business and are also a member of the provincial council, and a vote has to be taken on a new road that will go straight through your premises’, Boogaard gives as an example. ‘In that case, there’s a direct personal interest and by law you must abstain from voting.’ So as long as the rules of integrity are not breached, farmers and farmers' representatives can simply take part in votes on plans to reduce nitrogen emissions, for example. ‘BBB presents itself as a party for farmers, not for the whole of the Netherlands.’

Read the full article (in Dutch) in newspaper AD

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