The Netherlands: why is the BBB so popular?

In the provincial elections in the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte's coalition parties have suffered major losses while the new Farmer-Citizen Movement (BBB) became the strongest party in its first bid for government. Commentators see farmers' anger over the government's agricultural policy as well as widespread dissatisfaction as the main causes for the government's poor showing.

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Die Welt (DE) /

Revolt of the ordinary citizens

Not only the anger of the rural population over the government's climate measures was a key factor for the BBB's election victory, writes Die Welt:

“The Netherlands, with its 17.5 million inhabitants and a surface area the size of the German state of Lower Saxony, is the world's second largest agricultural exporter after the US. At the same time, it is among the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas in Europe. But the BBB also did well in the cities, where it seems to have appealed to all those who feel that the government cares about all kinds of things but not the prosperity and security of ordinary citizens.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Feeling abandoned

De Standaard notes that with the BBB yet another populist party has appeared on the scene:

“Time and again the Dutch put their trust in a newcomer that promises them a 'different' brand of politics. ... In the Netherlands, as in Flanders, farmers no longer make up a large section of the electorate. But the feeling that 'those people' in The Hague or 'those people' in Brussels don't understand 'us' is familiar to many. When weighing up the interests of the environment and agriculture, both we and our neighbours have a sense of having been abandoned, of being disadvantaged. The politicians don't know us, they don't understand us and they don't want us.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

The new mouthpiece of dissatisfaction

There is a fundamental distrust in the country, says NRC:

“It is the mood of discontent, of anger with the established order, of the feeling that everything needs to be changed. The BBB has become the mouthpiece of this discontent. ... Crucial to the BBB's advance was that it was able to link the interests of the agricultural sector to a broader dissatisfaction with the national political leadership culture. ... The dissatisfaction is now reflected in a low level of trust in politics.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Take this warning seriously

Voters have punished the Rutte government, says De Telegraaf:

“The advance of the Farmer-Citizen Movement - or BBB - shows that this coalition is not popular among the electorate. ... The BBB has become the ultimate protest party against established interests and urban complacency. ... The pressure within the coalition will now increase. ... The room for manoeuvre is shrinking. Whether this warning from the voters will trigger a government crisis, as is being speculated, remains to be seen. Three of the four coalition parties know that they would be left far away from a seat in government if the coalition breaks up. But there is an alternative: pay attention to the people's warning shot.”