Thursday, March 23, 2023

Elections in the Netherlands: the campaign wins the battle with the city

From a single member of the Lower House on Wednesday to the largest party in the Netherlands the following day: this is the feat of the Citizen-Farmer Movement (BBB) ​​and its leader Caroline van der Plas. This novice party is the big winner of the provincial elections on Wednesday evening. In the Upper House, the Dutch Senate, the BBB goes from zero to probably 15 seats (out of 75), thus becoming the leading party. Mark Rutte’s coalition government thus lost its majority in the Dutch Senate.

The BBB takes advantage of the climate change debate that dominates Dutch politics. The government wants to halve nitrogen emissions by 2030. One way is to reduce the number of farms, implementing forced closures if necessary. These measures are met with strong protests from farmers in this country, which is the world’s second largest exporter of agri-food products.

“Seriously Negotiate”

Riding the wave of these protests, in 2019, former journalist Caroline Van der Plas decided to found the BBB, in collaboration with an advertising agency for agricultural businesses. The links with the food industry are close. Two years later, she was elected to the Dutch Assembly for the first time. His political program is a mixture of center-right proposals and, above all, of defense of farmers.

“The coalition must now begin to negotiate seriously with BBB”, rejoiced Caroline Van de Plas, in a first reaction Wednesday evening. The Socialists and the Greens, who for the first time presented themselves with a common programme, also won 15 seats. In predominantly agricultural provinces, the BBB scores were even more impressive: in Overijssel, in the east of the country, one in three voters voted for the farmers’ party.

Contrast between city and countryside

During her campaign, Caroline Van der Plas managed to use the perceived contrast between urban and rural areas to her advantage. However, this contrast is not comparable to the situation in France. With some 18 million inhabitants on the surface of the Pays de la Loire region, the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe (after the island of Malta). Its population is growing faster than anywhere else in the European Union. Even the Dutch countryside still feels like a city.

This did not prevent her from voting for Caroline Van der Plas, who also seduces thanks to her popular and direct language. But for many, a vote in favor of the BBBs is above all a vote of protest against the fourth government of Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the country since 2010, which is increasingly in difficulty following a succession of scandals.

In the last regional elections, in 2019, the far-right FVD party had become the largest party, but there is not much left of it today. By voting for the BBD, Dutch voters have once again turned to an unpredictable newcomer who will have to prove himself over the next four years.


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