May 28th, 2004


Dutch politics for outsiders (3)

Dutch politics for outsiders (3)

Traditionally there are three main parties in the Dutch parliament. On the right there is the VVD, Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie. Liberals, which in the Netherlands means that they want freedom, hence a not very active government. Central right there is the CDA, Christen Democratisch Appel. The Christian conservative party, yet not fundamentalist. Everyone who doesn’t go to church anymore but still counts himself as a believer will vote for them. On the left there is the PvdA, Partij van de Arbeid. Socialists, workers movement, links with the unions with several former union leaders choosing this party as their next step in a political career.

With either the PvdA or the CDA as the winner in just about every election in living history, it has never happened that one of them had a majority. Over 50 seats of the 150 seat Tweede Kamer is an exception. This means that after every election we need to find which parties work together. The Christian central right party CDA has the advantage there. They sit in between the other 2 major parties and can choose who to govern with, should they win an election. Should one of the other two win, they are still the obvious choice as a governing partner. Basically this means that being in the middle of the power, they are always part of the Dutch government. One exception: the so called ‘purple’ government during the nineties (next time I’ll explain this one).

Small parties are still relevant in the Netherlands. Sometimes one of them becomes a bit bigger for a while; sometimes they are needed to get a majority for the government. A few that matter at the moment are:

D’66. Since 38 years they try to make democracy easier and more accessible. Their major aims are a referendum and a directly chosen mayor and prime minister. At the moment they are in the government with CDA and VVD, therefore helping those parties to a majority. Central left.

Groen Links. Green party, socialist ideas. The major opposition party over the last decade. Never big, but usually good and strong leaders.

SP. Socialistische Partij. Up and growing since the eighties. Another left wing party that is growing in the opposition. With the PvdA near the centre, on the left the SP has found a gap to draw a lot of voters who are still full of ideals. Their leader Jan Marijnissen is generally acknowledged as the best politician in the country at the moment.

ChristenUnie and SGP: Small fundamentalist Christian parties. Always get 6 or 7 seats together, never get any power, but are always just there.

Next time: Purple government.
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