In the Netherlands, a farmers’ protest party has caused a shock after winning state elections this week, just four years after it was founded. Could their rise have wider implications?
The farmer-citizen movement, or BoerburgerBeweging (BBB), arose out of mass demonstrations against the Dutch government’s environmental policies, protests that saw farmers use their tractors to block public roads. The BBB is now set to become the largest party in the Dutch Senate.
The developments have cast doubt on the Dutch government’s ambitious environmental plans and are closely watched by the rest of Europe.
The movement was fueled by ordinary farmers, but has become an unlikely front in the culture wars. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen have voiced their support, while some on the far right see the movement as their idea of elites using green politics to trample on the rights of individuals.
The Farmer-Citizen Movement won a landslide victory in regional elections on Wednesday, winning more seats in the senate than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party.
The first exit poll showed the party to win 15 of the 75 seats in the Senate, with almost 20 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rutte’s ruling VVD party dropped from 12 to 10 seats, leaving it without a Senate majority. Thursday’s results showed that the BBB party won the most votes in eight of the country’s 12 states.
Wednesday’s election victory is significant because it means the party will now be the largest in the Upper House of Parliament, which has the power to block legislation agreed in the Lower House, calling into question the Dutch government’s environmental policies.
As the election results emerged overnight on Wednesday, BBB head Carolyn van der Plas told local broadcaster Radio 1. “Nobody can ignore us anymore.
“The voters have expressed themselves very clearly against the policy of this government.”
Newspapers this week described the election result as a “monster victory” for the Farmer-Citizen Movement, which enjoys support from sections of society that do not feel comfortable with Rutte’s VVD party.
For political reporter Arjan Noorlander in the Netherlands, this week’s state election results have made it difficult to predict the country’s political future. “It’s a big black hole of what happens next,” he told CNN.
“They don’t have a majority, so they have to negotiate to form a government, and we have to wait and see what the effect is.”
In the Netherlands, journalist and political columnist Tom-Jan Meuse believes Wednesday’s result reflects “serious dissatisfaction” with traditional politics in the country.
“This party is definitely part of that trend,” he told CNN.
“But it’s new in that it has a different agenda than previous anti-establishment parties, but it fits into a bigger picture that’s been here for 25 years.”
Meeus believes that the shock increase in support for the BBB party comes mainly from those living in small rural villages who feel disenchanted with government policies.
“Even though it’s a small country, there’s this perception that people living in the western, urbanized part of the country get all the goodies from government policies, and people living in small villages in the countryside believe that successful people in Amsterdam; The Hague in Utrecht has a product and they suffer from it.
“So the feeling is that less fortunate, less intelligent people are trapped by a government that doesn’t understand its problems.”
Noorlander agrees that the main topic they are talking about recently is the position of Dutch farmers, because “the rules on pollution and the environment are mostly set in Brussels by the EU, they were against it”.
“They want farmers to have a place in the Netherlands. That’s their main theme, but in the last few months it’s become more broad. It’s become a vote of people living in these agricultural areas, outside the big cities, versus people in the big cities who are doing politics and are more international.”
The farmer-citizen movement was formed four years ago in response to government proposals to tackle nitrogen emissions.
The Dutch government launched a bid to halve emissions by 2030, pointing the finger at industrial agriculture for rising pollution levels that threatened the country’s biodiversity.
The BBB party has fought against measures that include buying out farmers and reducing livestock numbers, focusing instead on the livelihoods of farmers at risk of extinction.
Farmers have protested the government’s green policies by blocking government buildings with tractors and dumping manure on highways.
Meeus believes BBB’s victory in this week’s election means the agenda to combat the nitrogen crisis is now in “big trouble.”
“This vote is clearly a statement by a large segment of the electorate to say no to that policy,” he said.
According to Ciaran O’Connor, senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the BBB has built a platform on the back of the protest movement to make their party representative of the “real people”.
The BBB, he says, “has been one of the leading forces in pushing people out of protest, but it has also shaped the ideologies and beliefs that power much of the movement; deny or challenge climate change or, at least, measures that will negatively affect farmers’ livelihoods and businesses; wider EU skepticism; growing anti-immigration and anti-Islam views as well.”
Former US President Donald Trump promoted the protest at various points during his speeches last year. At a rally in Florida last July, he told the crowd:
The “Farmer-Citizen Movement” has also received support from the extreme right.
A report by the International Center for Counter-Terrorism describes how what began as local protests has become the focus of extremists and conspirators, particularly as evidence of the so-called “Great Reset” theory of global elites using the masses for themselves. benefit
According to O’Connor, the movement aligns with a populist view of climate action as a new form of tyranny imposed by untouchable governments on ordinary citizens.
“One of the tactics used by the Dutch farmers’ protest movement is to use tractors to create blockades. “International interest in the farmer protest movement and this method of protest really increased not long after the 2022 Canadian truck convoy, which was organized and promoted by a number of far-right figures in Canada, the US and internationally,” he said. said:
“For many far-right figures, this movement was seen as the next iteration of that ‘column’ type of protest, and they saw it as popular protest mobilizing against tyrannical or untouchable governments.”
For some analysts, however, it is premature to pin the Dutch protests on the far right.
“I was incredibly unimpressed by it,” Meuse said. “In general, the perception of the problem that existed in the minds of people on the far right in Canada and the United States was as far as I have seen.
“It remains to be seen whether the “Farmer-Citizen Movement” will present itself as an extreme right-wing party.