Farmer-citizen movement: Trump and Le Pen supported these Dutch farmers – now they caused election shock

(CNN) A peasant protest party in the Netherlands has caused shock after winning provincial elections this week, just four years after it was founded. Could her rise have wider implications?

The Farmers Citizens Movement or BoerburgerBeweging (BBB) ​​grew out of mass demonstrations against the Dutch government’s environmental policies, protests in which farmers used their tractors to block public roads. The BBB is now set to become the largest party in the Dutch Senate.

The developments challenge the Dutch government’s ambitious environmental plans and are being closely watched by the rest of Europe.

The movement was driven by ordinary peasants but has become an unlikely front in the Culture Wars. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen have pledged their support, while some far-right see the movement as embodying their ideas of elites using green politics to trample on the rights of individuals.

“Monster Victory”

On Wednesday, the peasant-citizen movement scored a major victory in regional elections, winning more Senate seats than Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD party.

The first exit poll showed the party would win 15 of the Senate’s 75 seats with nearly 20 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Rutte’s governing party VVD fell from 12 to 10 seats – leaving it without a Senate majority. Thursday’s results showed the BBB party 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 be the largest in the upper house of parliament with the power to block legislation agreed in the lower house – calling into question the Dutch government’s environmental policies.

When the election results were announced overnight on Wednesday, BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told domestic broadcaster Radio 1: “Nobody can ignore us any longer.

“The voters have spoken out very clearly against the policies of this government.”

Newspapers described this week’s election result as a “monster victory” for the peasant-bourgeois movement, which is backed by sections of society 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 the country’s political future very difficult to predict. “It’s a big black hole what’s going to happen next,” he told CNN.

“They don’t have a majority so they would have to negotiate to form a cabinet and we’ll have to see what the impact will be.”

Tom-Jan Meeus, a journalist and political columnist in the Netherlands, believes Wednesday’s result reflects “serious dissatisfaction” with the country’s traditional politics.

“This party is definitely part of that trend,” he told CNN.

“However, it is new in that it has a different agenda than previous anti-establishment parties, but it fits into the bigger picture that has existed here for 25 years.”

Meeus believes the shocking surge in support for the BBB party has come largely from those living in small, rural villages who are 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 March 11, 2023.

“Even though it is a small country, there is a perception that the people who live in the western, urbanized part of the country have all the goods of government policy, and the people who live in small villages in the countryside believe that the successful people in Amsterdam, in The Hague, in Utrecht have the goods and they suffer because of it.

“So the feeling is that the less successful, less bright people are being held captive by a government that doesn’t understand their problems.”

Noorlander agrees that the main issue they’ve been talking about lately is the position of farmers in the Netherlands because “the pollution and environmental regulations, mainly made in Brussels by the EU, have pushed against it”.

“They want farmers to have a place in the Netherlands. That’s her main theme, but it’s broadened in recent months. It has become the vote of the people who live in these agricultural areas outside the big cities, against the people in the big cities making politics and becoming more international.”

reject climate policy

The Farmer Citizen movement was formed four years ago in response to government proposals to tackle nitrogen emissions.

The Dutch government launched a campaign to halve emissions by 2030, pointing the finger at industrial agriculture over rising pollution threatening the country’s biodiversity.

The BBB party has resisted the measures, which include buying up farmers and reducing livestock, instead emphasizing farmers’ livelihoods at risk of destruction.

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 obviously a statement by a large proportion 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 says it built a platform behind the protest movement so that its party was the representative of the “real people.”

The BBB, he says, “has been a leading force in getting people to protest, but also in shaping the ideologies and beliefs that drive much of the movement; to reject or deny climate change, or at least actions that would negatively impact farmers’ livelihoods and businesses; broader EU skepticism; burgeoning anti-immigration and anti-Islam views.”

support from the right

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: “Farmers in the Netherlands, of all people, are bravely standing up to the Dutch government’s climate tyranny.”

The Farmer Citizen movement has also garnered support from the far right.

A report by the International Center for Counter-Terrorism describes how what began as local protests has caught the attention of extremists and conspiracy theorists, particularly as evidence of the so-called “Great Reset” theory of mass-capturing global elites To use.

According to O’Connor, the movement aligns with a populist view of climate change as a new form of tyranny imposed on ordinary citizens by contactless governments.

“One of the tactics used by the Dutch peasant protest movement was to use tractors to set up blockades. International interest in the peasant protest movement and this method of protest grew in 2022, not long after the organized Canadian trucker convoy and promoted by a number of far-right figures in Canada, the US and also internationally,” he said.

“For many far-right figures, this movement was seen as the next iteration of this ‘convoy’ type of protest, and they saw it as a popular protest mobilizing against tyrannical or contactless governments.”

For some analysts, however, it is premature to blame the Dutch protests for the far right.

“That didn’t particularly impress me,” Meeus said. “In general, as far as I’ve seen, the perception of the problem that was in the minds of the far-right from Canada and the United States was pretty remote.

“It remains to be seen whether the Farmer Citizen movement presents itself as a far-right party.”


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