People's Party for Freedom and Democracy

Infobox Dutch_Political_Party
party_name = Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie
party_wikicolourid = VVD
leader = Mark Rutte
partychair = Ivo Opstelten
EKleader = Uri Rosenthal
TKleader = Mark Rutte
EPleader = Jules Maaten
foundation = 24 january, 1948
merger = PvdV and Committee-Oud
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ideology = Conservative liberalism [Andeweg, R. and G. Irwin "Politics and Governance in the Netherlands", Basingstoke (Palgrave) p.49]
position = Right [Score 7.4/10 in 2003 Chapel Hill expert survey, see Hooghe et al. (2003) [ Chapel Hill Survey] ]
WB = Telders Stichting
international = Liberal International
european = European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party
europarl = ALDE
colours = Blue and Orange
headquarters = Thorbeckehuis Laan Copes van Cattenburch 52 Den Haag
website = []
The People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) ( _nl. Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) is a Dutch liberal political party. The VVD is the most vociferous supporter of private enterprise in the Netherlandsndash although supportive of the welfare state [cite book|author=Hans Daalder|coauthors=Ruud Koole|editor=Emil Joseph Kirchner|title=Liberal Parties in Western Europe|chapter=Liberal Parties in the Netherlands|year=1988|publisher=Cambridge University Press|id=ISBN 0-521-32394-0] ndash and is often perceived as a market liberal party, [Andeweg R.B. and G.A. Irwin "Government & Politics in the Netherlands" 2002 Palgrave p. 48] , [ [] ] in contrast to the social-liberal D66. The VVD is the second largest opposition party in parliament, after the fourth Balkenende cabinet was formed.

Party history


The VVD was founded in 1948 as a continuation of the Freedom Party, which was a continuation of the Liberal State Party, a pre-World War II market liberal party. They were joined by liberals from the social-democratic Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA, Labour Party), led by Pieter Oud. The liberals from the PvdA were members of the pre-war social liberal Vrijzinnig Democratische Bond (VDB), who had joined the PvdA in the post-war Doorbraak-movement. They were unhappy with the social-democratic orientation of the PvdA.

Between 1948 and 1952 the VVD took part in the broad cabinets led by the social-democrat Willem Drees. The party was a junior partner with only eight seats to the Catholic People's Party (KVP) and social-democratic PvdA, which both had around thirty seats. The party's leadership was in the hands of the respected former PvdA member Oud. The Drees cabinet laid the foundation for the welfare state and decolonization of the Dutch Indies. In the 1952 elections the VVD gained one seat, but did not join government. They were rewarded for their opposition in the 1956 elections, receiving thirteen seats. But they were still kept out of government until the 1959 elections, which were held early because of cabinet crisis. They earned nineteen seats and the party entered government together with the Protestant Anti Revolutionary Party (ARP) and Christian Historical Union (CHU) and the Catholic KVP.

In 1963 Oud left politics, and he was succeeded by the minister of Home Affairs Edzo Toxopeus. Toxopeus lost three seats in the 1963 elections, but the VVD remained in government. Meanwhile internal debate developed. In 1962 some progressive VVD members founded the Liberal Democratic Centre (Liberaal Democratisch Centrum; LDC) which was supposed to moved the VVD in a more progressive direction. In 1966 many of the LDC-members left the VVD and joined the newly founded social-liberal party Democrats 66 (D66). In 1966 there was a conflict between the VVD-ministers and their Christian-democratic counterparts. The cabinet fell and without elections it was replaced by the social-democratic/Christian-democratic cabinet-Cals, which fell after a few months. In the following 1967 elections the VVD remained relatively stable and entered the Cabinet-de Jong.

During this period the VVD had weak ties with other liberal organization and together they formed the neutral pillar. This included the liberal papers Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant and the Algemeen Handelsblad, the broadcaster AVRO and the employers' organization VNO.


In the 1971 elections the VVD lost one seat and their cabinet lost its majority. A cabinet was formed with the Christian-democratic parties, the VVD and the social-democratic offshoot DS70. This cabinet fell after a few months. Meanwhile a charismatic young MP named Hans Wiegel had attracted considerable attention. He became the new leader of the VVD: in 1971 he became the new fractievoorzitter, in 1972 he was appointed lijsttrekker. With Wiegel the VVD oriented towards a new political course, reforming the welfare state, cutting taxes etc. Wiegel did not shun from conflict with the PvdA and the trade unions. With this new course came a new electorate: working class and middle class voters, who because of individualization and depillarization were more easy to attract.The course was very profitable: in the heavily polarized elections of 1972 the VVD won six seats. The VVD was kept out of government by the social-democratic/Christian-democratic-Den Uyl. Although the ties between the VVD and other neutral pillarized organizations weakened, the number of neutral organizations, friendly to the VVD, expanded. The TROS and later Veronica, new broadcasters which entered the public broadcasting system were friendly to the VVD. In 1977 the VVD again won six seats bringing its total to twenty-eight seats. When lengthy formation talks between the social-democrats and Christian-democrats finally led to final break the VVD formed a government with the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), with only a majority of two seats.

In the 1981 elections the VVD lost two seats and its partner the CDA lost even more. The cabinet was without a majority and a CDA/PvdA/D66 cabinet was formed, which fell after a few months. In 1982 Hans Wiegel left politics to become Queen's Commissioner in Friesland, he was succeeded by Ed Nijpels. In the 1982 elections Nijpels' VVD won ten seats, bringing its total up to 36. In entered government with the CDA again under CDA-leader Ruud Lubbers. The cabinet began a program of radical reform of the welfare state, which is still implemented today. The VVD lost nine seats in the 1986 elections but the cabinet nonetheless retained its majority. This was blamed on the person of Nijpels, who stood down as leader of the VVD. He was succeeded by Joris Voorhoeve. In 1989 the CDA/VVD cabinet fell over a minor point. In the subsequent elections the VVD lost five seats, leaving only twenty-two. The VVD was kept out of government. Voorhoeve was replaced by the charismatic intellectual Frits Bolkestein.


Bolkestein's VVD was one of the winners of the 1994 elections: they won nine seats. It formed an unprecedented government with the social-democratic PvdA and the social-liberal D66. The so-called "purple cabinet" led by Wim Kok, the first Dutch government without any confessional parties. Like many of his predecessors the VVD-leader Bolkestein remained in parliament, his political style was characterized by some as "opposition to one's own government". This style was very successful and the VVD won seven seats in the 1998 elections becoming the second party in parliament with thirty-eight seats. The VVD formed a second Purple cabinet with the PvdA and D66. Bolkestein left Dutch politics in 1999 to become European Commissioner. He was replaced by the more technocratic and socially liberal Hans Dijkstal.

In the heavily polarized 2002 elections, dominated by the rise of Pim Fortuyn, the VVD lost fourteen seats, leaving only twenty-four. The VVD nonetheless entered a cabinet with the CDA and the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF). Dijkstal stood down, and was replaced by the popular former minister of finance Gerrit Zalm. After a few months Zalm "pulled the plug" out of the VVD/CDA/LPF-cabinet, after the infighting of LPF ministers Bomhoff and Heinsbroek.

In the 2003 elections the VVD won only four seats, making a total of twenty-eight. The party expected to do much better, having adopted most of Fortuyn's proposals on immigration and integration. The VVD unwillingly entered the VVD/CDA/D66-cabinet with Zalm returning to the ministry of Finance. He was replaced as partyleader by Jozias van Aartsen, former foreign minister. On September 2, 2004, VVD MP Geert Wilders left the party after a dispute with parliamentary chairman Van Aartsen. He has chosen to continue as an independent in the Tweede Kamer.

In 2006 the party lost a considerable number of seats in the municipal elections, prompting parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen to step down. Willibrord van Beek was subsequently appointed parliamentary leader ad interim. In the subsequent party leadership run-off Mark Rutte was elected as the leader, beating Rita Verdonk and Jelleke Veenendaal. [ NRC Handelsblad 31 May 2006 [ Link] Dutch language]

The 2006 election campaign did not start of well, top candidate Mark Rutte was criticized by his own parliamentary party for being invisible in the campaign, and unable to break the attention away from the duel between current christian-democratic prime-minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Wouter Bos of the Labour Party. However, the VVD's campaign started relatively late. [cite web|title=Rutte: "Het karwei begint nu pas"|url=|publisher=NOS Nieuws|date=2006-11-04] The election polls show a loss for the VVD; old VVD deputy prime-minster Hans Wiegel blamed a poorly ran VVD campaign for this, caused by the heavily contested VVD leadership run-off between Mark Rutte and Rita Verdonk earlier in the year. Verdonk has her eyes on the deputy-minister post, while cabinet posts are normally decided upon by the political leader of the VVD, Mark Rutte. [cite news|title= |url=|publisher=Trouw|date=2006-11-14] On election day, the party received a vote total enough for twenty-two seats, a loss of six seats. When the official election results were announced on Monday 27 November, 2006, preferential votes became known as well, showing that second candidate on the list Rita Verdonk obtained more votes than the VVD's top candidate, Mark Rutte. Rutte received 553,200 votes, Verdonk 620,555. [nl iconcite web|title=?|url=|publisher=Kiesraad|date=2006-11-27] This lead Verdonk to call for a party commission that would investigate the party leadership position, as consequence of the situation of her obtaining more votes in the general election than Rutte, creating a shortly-lived crisis in the party. [nl iconcite news|title=Verdonk wil onderzoek naar leiderschap VVD|url=|publisher=Elsevier|date=2006-11-28] A crisis was averted when Rutte called for an ultimatum on his leadership, which Verdonk had reconcile to, by rejecting her proposal for a party commission. [nl iconcite news|title=Verdonk haalt bakzeil over leiderschap VVD|url=|publisher=Elsevier|date=2006-11-29] During 2007, signs of VVD infighting continued to play in the media. In June 2007, former VVD minister Dekker presented a report on the previous elections, showing that the VVD lacked clear leadership roles, however the report also not singled out someone in particular for the party's losses. [cite news |url= |title=Rutte pleased with committee report |publisher=Expatica |date=2007-06-13 |accessdate=2007-06-15]

After Verdonk renewed her criticism of the party in September 2007, she was expelled from the parliamentary faction, and subsequently relinquished her membership, after reconciliation attempts proved futile. [cite news |url= |title=Ex-minister Verdonk expelled from parliamentary party |publisher=Radio Netherlands |date=2007-09-13 |accessdate=2007-09-13] [cite news |title=Verdonk zegt lidmaatschap VVD op |url= | |date=2007-10-15] Verdonk started her own political movement, Trots op Nederland, subsequently. In opinion polls held after Verdonk's exit, the VVD is set to lose close to ten parliamentary seats in elections. [cite web |title=Politieke Barometer week 42 - 19 oktober 2007 |url= |publisher=Interview-NSS |date=2007-10-19] [cite web |title=Politieke Barometer week 43 - 26 oktober 2007 |url= |publisher=Interview-NSS |date=2007-10-26] [cite web |title=Nieuw Haags Peil van 21 oktober 2007 |url= | |date=2007-10-26]

Jan van Zanen, chairman of the VVD's party board, announced in November 2007 that he would step down in May 2008, a year before his term would end. The rest of the board also announced that they would step down. On the same day of his announcement, honorary member Hans Wiegel called for the resignation of the board, because they could not keep Verdonk for the party. [cite news |title=Hele hoofdbestuur VVD stapt op |url= | |date=2007-11-21 |accessdate=2007-11-21] [cite news |title=Wiegel wants VVD executive to resign |url= |publisher=Expatica |date=2007-11-21 |accessdate=2007-11-21] Wiegel also opinioned that the VVD should become part of a larger liberal movement, that would encompass the social liberals D66, the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk's Trots op Nederland movement, although he found little resonance for this ideas from others. [cite news |title=Little support for Wiegel's ideas for VVD |url= |publisher=Expatica |date=2007-11-22 |accessdate=2007-11-23]

In 2008, the VVD chose a new party chairman, Ivo Opstelten, the outgoing mayor of Rotterdam. Mark Rutte has also announced at the celebration of the party's sixth decennial that he will rewrite the foundational program of the party that was enacted in the early 1980s, and offer the new principles for consideration to the party's members in a fall congress.


The VVD was originally a merger of the Party of Freedom and Freethinking Democratic dissenters within the PvdA. In this name, both tendencies, classical liberalism ("Freedom") and social liberalism ("People's Party"; "Democracy") are represented. Although a liberal party, the VVD did not openly call itself "liberal", mainly because of the still lingering "negative" connotations of liberalism developed during the Great Depression and Second World War.
The most common English translation of the name is the literal translation (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy), [] [] [] , the party itself provides the translation "Party for Freedom and Democracy". [] The reason for this is unknown, but it may be because the term "People's Party" had some connotations with communism in the past.Fact|date=June 2007

Ideology and issues

The VVD is a party founded on liberal philosophy, [VVD website statement [ Link] English language] traditionally being the most ardent supporter of 'free markets' of all Dutch political parties, promoting fiscal responsibility, economic freedom, democracy and international cooperation, and in general committed to the idea of the welfare state. After 1971 the party became more populist, although liberal elements remain strong within the party. [Andeweg R.B. and G.A. Irwin "Government & Politics in the Netherlands" 2002 Palgrave p. 48] From this period on the VVD became more sceptical towards the current welfare state, advocating reform of the welfare state and lower taxes in order to increase economic growth. As such it supported neo-liberal reforms to the welfare state. Often political commentators and political scientists refer to the VVD as a market liberal party [Andeweg, R. and G. Irwin "Politics and Governance in the Netherlands", Basingstoke (Palgrave) p.49] , [ [ Socialist Party (Netherlands)] ] , [ [] ] in contrast to D66, which is perceived to be a more progressive liberal party. The recent leadership election was interpreted by many as a conflict between the liberal and conservative wings of the party, with Rutte, the 'liberal' candidate, winning from Verdonk, the 'conservative' or 'populist' candidate. ["Een Liberale VVD" in "De Volkskrant" June 1, 2006 accessible [ here] ] The election was rather close, with 52% voting Rutte and 46% Verdonk. [ [ Official election results] ] This enforced the image of the VVD as a conservative-oriented liberal party.Fact|date=February 2007

The most important principle for the VVD has always been individual freedom.

The principles of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) are outlined in the "Liberal Manifesto" ("Liberaal Manifest") and the election programs. The "Liberal Manifesto" is a general outlook on the direction of the party, and is an expansion of the party's foundational principles. The election programs are more oriented to practical politics.

Liberal Manifesto

The last "Liberal Manifesto" of the VVD was published in September 2005. It develops a broad outline around the themes of democracy, security, freedom and citizenship, along with a vision of the future of party's internal structure. Below some of the points from the Manifesto are presented:


* The Manifesto calls for a directly elected Minister-President, whereby voters can show their preference on the ballot.
* The question of (advisory) referendums is left open as a possibility.
* Mayors should be directly elected by the people.
* Commitment to the Four Freedoms of the European Union.


* A common policy on defense and security in the European Union is called for.


* The principle of non-discrimination should be given more importance than the exercise of religion.
* 'Social rights' are to be continued. These are not simple 'rights', but they also create an 'obligation'.
* Euthanasia is part of a person's 'right' to self-determination.
* Commitment to an open economy, with a 'regulated free-market', including Patents.
* Support for the freedom of contract. No nationally binding collective bargaining agreements.


* Minimize the option of dual citizenship.
* Social security should only be fully open for Dutch nationals. Migrants will have to integrate in order to become citizens.

Election program

The most recent parliamentary elections in the Netherlands were the 2006 elections. The VVD had setup a program commission chaired by BT executive Ben Verwaayen. The concept program was released on August 28, 2006. The members of the VVD had a final vote on the program on September 30, 2006. Some points from the program are:
# Keeping the social security age at 65.
# An across-the-board income tax reduction of 3%.
# Mortgage interest payments remain deductible.
# "Free" daycare for working people.
# 50% reduction of the inheritance tax.


In this table the election results of the VVD in Tweede Kamer, Eerste Kamer, Provincial and European elections is represented, as well as the party's political leadership: the fractievoorzitter, is the chair of the parliamentary party and the lijsttrekker is the party's top candidate in the general election, these posts are normally taken by the party's leader. It also possible that the party leader is member of cabinet, if the VVD was part of the governing coalition, the "highest ranking" minister is listed. The membership of the VVD and the party chair are also included.

Members of the Tweede Kamer

After the 2006 elections the party has 21* representatives in the lower house of parliament (shown in the order on the election list):
* Mark Rutte fractievoorzitter
* Henk Kamp
* Laetitia Griffith
* Brigitte van der Burg
* Fred Teeven
* Edith Schippers
* Atzo Nicolaï
* Johan Remkes
* Willibrord van Beek
* Hans van Baalen
* Anouchka van Miltenburg
* Charlie Aptroot
* Arend Jan Boekestijn
* Helma Neppérus
* Ineke Dezentjé Hamming-Bluemink
* Stef Blok
* Paul de Krom
* Halbe Zijlstra
* Han ten Broeke
* Frans Weekers
* Janneke Snijder-Hazelhoff(Rita Verdonk was expelled from the parliamentary faction on September 13, 2007)

Members of the Eerste Kamer

After the 2003 Upper House elections the party has 15 representatives in the Upper House:
* Uri Rosenthal, fractievoorzitter
* Fred de Graaf, vice-fractievoorzitter
* Heleen Dupuis, fractiesecretaris
* Marbeth Bierman-Beukema toe Water
* Ger Biermans
* Nicole van den Broek-Laman Trip
* Ankie Broekers-Knol
* Dick Dees
* Jan van Heukelum
* Willem Hoekzema
* Elsabe Kalsbeek-Schimmelpenninck van der Oije
* Niek Ketting
* Paul Luijten
* Cees van den Oosten
* Paula Swenker

Members of the European Parliament

After the 2004 European Parliament elections the party has four representatives in the European Parliament:
* Jules Maaten, fractievoorzitter
* Janine Hennis-Plasschaert
* Toine Manders
* Jan Mulder

VVD MEPs are part of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party.

Municipal and provincial government

Provincial government

The VVD provides three of twelve Queen's Commissioners, former party-leader Ed Nijpels is Queen's Commissioner in Friesland. The VVD is part of every college of Gedeputeerde Staten (provincial executive) except for Groningen

In the following figure one can see the election results of the provincial election of 2003 and 2007 per province. It shows the areas where the VVD is strong, namely the Randstad urban area that consists out of the provinces North and South Holland, Utrecht and (parts of) Flevoland. The party is weak in peripheral provinces like Friesland, Overijssel, Zeeland and Limburg.

Municipal government

109 of the 414 Dutch mayors are member of the VVD. Furthermore the party has about 250 aldermen and 1100 members of municipal councils.


Historically the VVD electorate consisted mainly of secular middle-class voters. [Andeweg, R. (1982) "Dutch voters adrift. On explanations of electoral change 1963-1977." Leiden: Leiden University. p. 17, 23] Under the leadership of Wiegel, the VVD has expanded its appeal to lower class voters.


Organizational structure

The highest organ of the VVD is the General Assembly, in which all members present have a single vote. It convenes usually twice every year. It appoints the party board and decides on the party program.

The order of the First Chamber, Second Chamber, European Parliament candidates list is decided by a referendum under all members voting by internet, phone or mail. If contested, the lijsttrekker of a candidates lists is appointed in a separate referendum in advance. Since 2002 the General Assembly can call for a referendum on other subjects too. The present chairman of the board was elected this way.

About 90 members elected by the members in meetings of the regional branches form the Party Council, which advises the Party Board in the months that the General Assembly does not convene. This is important forum within the party. The party board handles the daily affairs of the party.

Linked organisations

The independent youth-organization that has a partnership agreement with the VVD is the Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy (Jongeren Organisatie Vrijheid en Democratie; JOVD), which as a member of the Liberal Youth Movement of the European Union and the International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth.

The education institute of the VVD is the "Haya van Someren Foundation". The Scientific institute " B.M. Telders Foundation" publishes the magazine "Liberaal Reveil" every two months. The party published the magazine "Liber" bi-monthly.

International organisations

The VVD is a member of the European Liberal, Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR), the party of Liberals and Democrats in the European Union, which is a component of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. Internationally it is a member of the Liberal International.

The VVD participates in the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, a democracy assistance organisation of seven Dutch political parties.

Relationships to other parties

The VVD has always been a very independent party. The VVD cooperates on the European and the international level with the social-liberal D66. It has a long history of coalitions with the CDA and its Christian-democratic predecessors, but was in government with the social democratic PvdA from 1994 to 2002.

International comparison

The VVD is more of an economically liberal party, committed to the free market, and is comparable to the German Free Democratic Party of Germany. In its economic policies the VVD is closer to the British Conservatives than to the Liberal Democrats. In the United States it could be compared to centrist and liberal Republicans, like Lincoln Chafee and Rudy Giuliani, though its policy goals more closely resemble those articulated by the Libertarians. While the VVD's support for the free market and national security resembles that of the Republicans, its support for freedom in personal matters resembles that of the Democrats.

ee also

**Contributions to liberal theory
**Liberalism worldwide
**Liberal democracy
**Liberalism in the Netherlands

External links

* [ People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD)] official site


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