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Provincial council election results prove democracy is functioning well

Voters sent a clear signal in the recent Dutch provincial council elections with the 'monster' victory for the Farmer-Citizen Movement (BoerBurgerBeweging, BBB). This sign of ‘social resistance’ has consequences for the policy on nitrogen emissions, according to Geerten Boogaard, Professor of Local Government at Leiden University. The policy was established after a court ruling that the government must better protect vulnerable nature areas.

For Geerten Boogaard, the election outcome is proof that democracy is functioning well. ‘There was a conflict between the farmers who stood outside the political system and the politicians who are inside the system. That’s now changed. The parties will now face each other within the government, instead of citizens against the government.’

‘BBB was not elected for its strict nitrogen measures, so the party can't sit on provincial councils with that message’, Boogaard says. According to him, it is thus inevitable that the country will remain in deadlock on this issue for longer. Because you cannot delay nitrogen measures and start building houses at the same time. But the courts want to see results, says Boogaard. ‘In the most extreme case, a province will be unable to implement the national policy’, says Boogaard. ‘And in an equally extreme case, the cabinet can go full force and override the provinces to implement the policy itself.’

However, Boogaard does not envisage such a totally ‘out-of-control’ situation any time soon. For one thing, the central government simply does not have the administrative capacity to tackle nitrogen policy in the provinces itself. Another argument against such a confrontation is that the national and provincial governments need each other in other areas as well. Boogaard: ‘It's all interrelated. The provinces are also needed for the government's housing plans and for reception facilities for asylum seekers. On the other hand, the provinces need the national government – for instance for the construction of the proposed rail connection between the north and the Randstad, the so-called Lelylijn.’

Read the full article (in Dutch) on NU

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