Farmer-Citizen Movement: Trump and Le Pen backed these Dutch farmers — now they’ve sprung an election shock
(CNN) A farmer protest party in the Netherlands has caused shockwaves after winning provincial elections this week just four years after it was founded. Could their growth 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 using their tractors to block public roads. The BBB is now set to become the largest party in the Dutch senate.
The developments have called into question the Dutch government’s ambitious environmental plans and are being watched closely by the rest of Europe.
The movement was made possible by ordinary farmers, but it 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 of elites using green policies to violate the rights of individuals.
On Wednesday, the Farmer-Citizen Movement scored a major victory in regional elections, winning more seats in the senate than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party.
The first exit poll showed the party needed to win 15 of the 75 Senate seats with almost 20 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rutte’s ruling party, the VVD, fell from 12 to 10 seats – leaving it without a majority in the Senate. Results on Thursday showed that the BBB party had won the most votes in eight of the country’s 12 provinces.
Wednesday’s election win is significant as it means the party is now set to be the largest in the Upper House of Parliament, which has the power to block legislation agreed in the Lower House — calling into question environmental policies of the Dutch government.
As the election results came in overnight on Wednesday, BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told local broadcaster Radio 1: “Nobody can ignore us anymore.
Voters have expressed themselves very clearly against the policies of this government.
Newspapers described the election result this week as a “monster victory” for the Farmer-Citizen Movement, which has enjoyed support from parts of society that feel unsupported 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 happens next,” he told CNN.
“They don’t have a majority so they will have to negotiate to form a cabinet and we 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 traditional politics in the country.
“This party is definitely part of that trend,” he told CNN.
“However, it is new in that it has a different agenda from previous anti-establishment parties, but it fits the bigger picture that has been here for 25 years now.”
Meeus believes that the shocking increase in support for the BBB party comes mainly from those living in small rural villages who feel disenchanted with government policies.
Farmers gather in Zuider Park to protest against the government’s agricultural policy to reduce nitrogen emissions in The Hague, Netherlands on March 11, 2023.
“Although it is a small country, there is a perception that people living in the western, urbanized part of the country are getting all the benefits from government policies, and people living in villages in small villages believe that successful people in Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht are missing it, and they suffer from it.
“So the feeling is that less successful and less bright people are trapped by a government that doesn’t understand their problems.”
Noorlander agrees that the main topic they have been talking about recently is the position of farmers in the Netherlands, because of “pollution and environmental regulations made mainly in Brussels by the EU, they were opposing that.”
“They want farmers to have a place in the Netherlands. This is their main theme, but it has become broader in recent months. It is a vote of the people who live in these agricultural areas, outside the big cities, against the people in big cities. making policies and being more international.”
Rejection of climate policies
The Farmer-Citizen movement was created four years ago in response to government proposals to tackle nitrogen emissions.
The Dutch government launched a drive to halve emissions by 2030, pointing the finger at industrial agriculture for rising pollution levels that were threatening the country’s biodiversity.
The BBB party has fought against the measures — which include buying out farmers and reducing livestock numbers — instead emphasizing the livelihoods of farmers who are at risk of being destroyed.
Farmers have protested the government’s green policies by blocking government buildings with tractors and dumping organic manure on highways.
Meeus believes this week’s election victory for the BBB means the agenda to address the nitrogen crisis is now in “big trouble.”
“This vote is clearly a statement from a large portion of voters to say no to this policy,” he said.
According to Ciarán O’Connor, a senior analyst at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the BBB has built a platform on the back of the protest movement for their party to be representative of ‘real people’.
The BBB, he says, “has been one of the main driving forces behind getting people to protest, but also shaping the ideologies and beliefs that power many movements; rejecting or opposing climate change or, at least, measures that would adversely affect . affect farmers’ livelihoods and businesses; wider EU scepticism; flourishing anti-immigration and anti-Islam views too.”
Support from the extreme right
Former US President Donald Trump has promoted the protest at various points during his speeches in the past year. At a rally in Florida last July, he told crowds: “Farmers in the Netherlands of all countries are boldly opposing the climate tyranny of the Dutch government.”
The Farmer-Citizen movement has also gained support from the extreme right.
A report by the International Center for Counter-Terrorism describes how what started as a local protest caught the attention of extremists and conspirators, particularly seeing it as evidence of the so-called “Great Reset” theory of global elites using the masses to theirs. they benefit.
According to O’Connor, the movement aligns with a populist view of climate action as a new form of tyranny imposed by out-of-touch governments on ordinary citizens.
“One of the tactics used by the Dutch farmers’ protest movement has been the use of tractors to create blockades. International interest in the farmers’ protest movement and this method of protest really increased in 2022, not long after the Canadian truck convoy that was organized and promoted by a number of far-right figures in Canada, the US and internationally,” he said.
“For many figures on the far right, this movement was seen as the next iteration of that type of ‘column’ protest, and they saw it as popular protest mobilizing against tyrannical or untouchable governments.”
For some analysts, however, it is premature for the far right to claim the Dutch protests.
“I wasn’t too impressed with that,” Meeus said. “In general, the perception of the problem that was in the heads of the extreme right people from Canada and the United States was very far, as far as I could see.
“It remains to be seen whether the Farmer-Citizen Movement will present itself as a far-right party.