A farmers’ protest party in the Netherlands has caused a shock after winning provincial elections this week, just four years after it was founded. Could their emergence have wider implications?
The Boer-Burger Beweging or BoerburgerBeweging (BBB) originated from mass demonstrations against the environmental policies of the Dutch government, protests in which farmers used their tractors to block public roads. The BBB is now the largest party in the Senate.
The developments have challenged the ambitious environmental plans of the Dutch government and are being closely monitored by the rest of Europe.
The movement was driven by ordinary farmers, but has become an unlikely front in the culture wars. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen have expressed support, while some on the far right see the movement as embodying their ideas about elites using green policies to trample on individuals’ rights.
The Boer-Burgerbeweging won a large victory in the regional elections on Wednesday and won more seats in the senate than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party.
The first exit poll showed that the party would win 15 of the 75 seats in the Senate with almost 20 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rutte’s ruling VVD party fell from 12 to 10 seats, leaving it without a senate majority. Results on Thursday showed that the BBB party had won the most votes in eight of the country’s 12 provinces.
Wednesday’s election victory is significant, as it means the party will now become the largest in the Senate, which has the power to block legislation agreed upon in the House of Representatives – calling into question the environmental policies of the Dutch government.
When the election results came out on Wednesday evening, BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told domestic broadcaster Radio 1: “No one can ignore us any longer.
“Voters have spoken very clearly against the policies of this administration.”
Newspapers describe the election result this week as a ‘monstrous victory’ for the Boer-Burger Movement, which receives support from parts of society that do not feel supported by Rutte’s VVD party.
For Arjan Noorlander, a political reporter in the Netherlands, the results of this week’s provincial elections have made it very difficult to predict the country’s political future. “It’s a big black hole what’s going to happen next,” he told CNN.
“They don’t have a majority, so they should negotiate to form a cabinet and we’ll have to wait and see what the impact will be.”
Tom-Jan Meeus, a journalist and political columnist in the Netherlands, believes Wednesday’s result reflects a “serious dissatisfaction” with the country’s traditional politics.
“This party is definitely part of that trend,” he told CNN.
“However, it is new because it has a different agenda than previous anti-establishment parties, but it fits into the bigger picture that has been here for 25 years.”
Meeus believes that the shocking rise in support for the BBB party has largely come from those living in small rural villages who feel disillusioned with government policies.
“Although it is a small country, there is a perception that people who live in the western, urbanized part of the country get all the goods from the government policy, and people who live in small towns in rural areas believe that the successful people in Amsterdam , in The Hague, in Utrecht the goods have and they suffer from that.
“So the feeling is that the less successful, less smart people are trapped by a government that doesn’t understand what their problems are.”
Noorlander agrees that the main topic they are talking about lately is the position of the farmers in the Netherlands, because of “the pollution and environmental regulations made mainly in Brussels by the EU, they are resisting that. ”
“They want farmers to have a place in the Netherlands. That is their main topic, but it has broadened in recent months. It has become the voice of people who live in these agricultural areas, outside the big cities, against the people in the big cities who make the policy and are more international.”
The Boer-Burger Movement was founded four years ago in response to government proposals to tackle nitrogen emissions.
The Dutch government launched a campaign to halve emissions by 2030, blaming industrial agriculture for increasing pollution that threatened the country’s biodiversity.
The BBB party has opposed the measures – which include bailing out farmers and reducing livestock numbers – instead emphasizing farmers’ livelihoods in danger of being destroyed.
Farmers have protested the government’s green policies by blocking government buildings with tractors and dumping manure on highways.
Meeus believes this week’s election victory for the BBB means the agenda to tackle the nitrogen crisis is now in “major trouble”.
“This vote is clearly a statement by a large portion of voters to say no to that policy,” he said.
According to Ciarán O’Connor, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the BBB says it has built a platform on the back of the protest movement for their party to represent the “real people.”
The BBB, he says, “has been one of the main driving forces for people to protest, but also shaped the ideologies and beliefs that drive much of the movement; rejecting or challenging climate change or, in any case, measures that would adversely affect the livelihoods of farmers and businesses; wider EU skepticism; burgeoning anti-immigration and anti-Islam views as well.”
Former US President Donald Trump has promoted the protest at several points during his speeches over the past year. At a rally in Florida last July, he told crowds, “Farmers in the Netherlands of all places are courageously resisting the climate tyranny of the Dutch government.”
The Farmer-Citizen Movement has also received support from the far right.
A report from The International Center for Counter-Terrorism describes how what began as local protests caught the attention of extremists and conspirators, who saw it primarily as evidence of the so-called “Great Reset” theory of global elites who are targeting the masses for their own ends. used. benefit.
According to O’Connor, the move aligns with a populist view of climate action as a new form of tyranny imposed by governments unaware of ordinary citizens.
“One of the tactics of the Dutch farmers’ protest movement is the use of tractors to create blockades. International interest in the farmer protest movement, and this mode of protest, really grew in 2022, not long after the Canadian truck convoy organized and promoted by a number of far-right figures in Canada, the US, and internationally as well. said.
“For many far-right figures, this movement was seen as the next iteration of that ‘convoy’ type of protest and they saw it as a popular protest mobilizing against tyrannical or unattainable governments.”
For some analysts, however, it is premature for the extreme right to claim the Dutch protests.
“I wasn’t very impressed with that,” said Meeus. “In general, the perception of the problem that was in the minds of far-right people from Canada and the United States was, from what I’ve seen, pretty remote.
“It remains to be seen whether the Farmer-Citizen Movement will present itself as a far-right party.”