by Sophie Tanno at cnn.com
A farmers’ protest party in the Netherlands has caused a shock after winning provincial elections this week just four years after their founding. Could their rise have wider implications?
The Farmer-Citizen Movement or BoerburgerBeweging (BBB) grew 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 thrown the Dutch government’s ambitious environmental plans into doubt and are being watched closely by the rest of Europe.
The movement was powered by ordinary farmers but has become an unlikely front in the culture wars. Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen have voiced support, while some in the far right see the movement as embodying their ideas of elites using green policies to trample on the rights of individuals.
On Wednesday, the Farmer-Citizen Movement landed a large win 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 was due to win 15 of the Senate’s 75 seats with almost 20 per cent of the vote. Meanwhile Rutte’s ruling VVD party dropped from 12 to 10 seats – leaving it without a Senate majority. Results on Thursday showed 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 – throwing the Dutch government’s environmental policies into question.
As the election results emerged overnight on Wednesday, BBB leader Caroline van der Plas told domestic broadcaster Radio 1: “Nobody can ignore us any longer.
“Voters have spoken out very clearly against this government’s policies.
”Newspapers described the election outcome this week as a “monster victory” for the Farmer-Citizen Movement, which has enjoyed support from sections of society who feel unsupported by Rutte’s VVD party.