Dutch Labour Party

Infobox Dutch_Political_Party
party_name = Partij van de Arbeid
party_wikicolourid = PVDA
leader = Wouter Bos
partychair = Liliane Ploumen
EKleader = Han Noten
TKleader = Mariëtte Hamer
EPleader = Ieke van den Burg
foundation = February 9, 1946
merger = SDAP, CDU, and VDB
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ideology = Social Democracy
position = Centre Left [Score 4.0/10 in 2003 Chapel Hill expert survey, see Hooghe et al. (2003) [http://www.unc.edu/%7Ehooghe/parties.htm Chapel Hill Survey] ]
PJO = Young Socialists
WB = Wiardi Beckman Stichting
international = Socialist International
european = Party of European Socialists
europarl = Party of European Socialists
colours = Red
headquarters = Partijbureau PvdA Herengracht 54 Amsterdam
website = [http://www.pvda.nl www.pvda.nl]

The Dutch Labour Party (Dutch: "Partij van de Arbeid" (PvdA), literally "Party of the Labour") is a social-democratic political party in the Netherlands. Since the Dutch general election, 2003, the PvdA is the second largest political party in the Netherlands. The PvdA is a coalition member in the fourth Balkenende cabinet since February 22 2007.

Party history


The PvdA was founded on February 9, 1946 through a merger of three parties: the socialist SDAP, the minor left-liberal VDB and the small social-protestant CDU. They were joined by individuals from catholic resistance group "Christofor" and the Protestant-Christian parties Christian Historical Union (CHU) and Anti Revolutionary Party (ARP).

The founders of the PvdA wanted to create a broad people's party, breaking with the historic tradition of pillarization. This desire to come to a new political system was called the Doorbraak. The party combined socialist ideals with liberal, religious and humanist ideas. However, the party was unable to break pillarization. Instead the new party renewed the close ties the SDAP had with other socialist organisations (see linked organisations). In 1948, some liberal members, led by former VDB leader Oud, left the PvdA because they were unhappy with the socialist course of the PvdA. Together with the liberal conservative Partij van de Vrijheid, they formed the right of center liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

Between 1946 and 1958, the PvdA formed coalition governments with the Catholic Catholic People's Party (KVP), and combinations of VVD, ARP and CHU. The KVP and the PvdA together had a large majority in parliament. Since 1948, these cabinets were led by PvdA Prime Minister Willem Drees. Under his leadership the Netherlands recovered from the war, began to build its welfare state, and Indonesia became independent.

After the cabinet crisis of 1958, the PvdA was replaced by the VVD. The PvdA was in opposition until 1965. The electoral support of PvdA voters began to decline.


In 1965 a conflict in the KVP-ARP-CHU-VVD made continuation of the government impossible. The three confessional parties turned towards the PvdA. Together they formed the Cabinet Cals. This cabinet was also short lived and conflictridden. The conflicts culminated in the fall of the cabinet Cals over financial policy.

Meanwhile, a younger generation was attempting to gain control of the PvdA. A group of young PvdA members, calling themselves New Left, changed the party. The New Left wanted to reform the PvdA: the party should become oriented towards the new social movements, adopting their anti-parliamentary strategies and their issues, such as women's liberation, environmental conservation and Third World development. Prominent New Left members were Jan Nagel, Andre van der Louw and Bram Peper. One of their early victories followed the fall of the Cals cabinet. The party congress adopted a motion that made it impossible for the PvdA to govern with the KVP and its Protestant allies. In response to the growing power of the New Left group, a group of older, centrist party members, led by Willem Drees' son, Willem Drees Junior founded the New Right. In 1970, it was clear that they lost the conflict within the party and they left, founding the Democratic Socialists '70 (DS70) party.

Under the New Left, the PvdA started a strategy of polarization, striving for a cabinet based on a progressive majority in parliament. In order to form that cabinet the PvdA allied itself with the left-liberal Democrats 66 (D66) and the radical Christian Political Party Radicals (PPR). The alliance was called the Progressive Accord (PAK). In the 1971 and 1972 elections, these three parties promised to form a cabinet with a radical common program after the elections. They were unable to gain a majority in both elections. In 1971, they were kept out of cabinet, and the party of former PvdA members, DS70, became a partner of the Biesheuvel cabinet.

In the 1972 elections, neither the PvdA and its allies or the KVP and its allies were unable to gain a majority. The two sides were forced to work together. Joop den Uyl, leader of the PvdA, led the cabinet. The cabinet was an extra-parliamentair kabinet and it was composed of members of the three progressive parties and members of the KVP and the ARP. The cabinet attempted to radically reform government, society and the economy, but it faced economic decline and was riddled with personal and ideological conflicts. Especially, the relationship between Prime Minister Den Uyl and the KVP Vice Prime Minister, Van Agt was very problematic. The conflict culminated just before the 1977 elections, the cabinet fell. The 1977 elections were won by the PvdA, but the ideological and personal conflict between Van Agt and Den Uyl prevented the formation of a new centre-left cabinet. After very long cabinet formation talks, the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), a new Christian-democratic political formation composed of KVP, CHU and ARP, formed government with the VVD, based on a very narrow majority. The PvdA was left in opposition.

In the 1981 elections, the CDA-VVD lost their majority. The CDA remained the largest party but it was forced to cooperate with the PvdA and D66 (the PPR had left the alliance, after losing the 1977 elections). In the new cabinet led by Van Agt, Den Uyl returned to cabinet, now as Vice Prime Minister. The personal and ideological conflict between Van Agt and Den Uyl culminated in the fall of the cabinet just months after it was formed. The VVD and the CDA regained their majority in the 1982 elections and retained it in the 1986 elections. The PvdA was left in opposition. During this period, the party began to reform. In 1986, Den Uyl left politics, appointing former union leader Wim Kok as his successor.


After the 1989 elections, the PvdA returned to cabinet together with the CDA. Kok became Vice Prime Minister to CDA leader Ruud Lubbers. The PvdA accepted the major economic reforms the previous Lubbers cabinets made, including privatization of public enterprises and reform of the welfare state. They continued these policies in this cabinet. The cabinet faced heavy protest from the unions and saw major political conflict within the PvdA itself.

In the 1994 elections, the PvdA and CDA coalition lost its majority in parliament. The PvdA however emerged as the biggest party. Kok formed a government together with the right-liberal VVD and left-liberal D66. The so-called "purple" government was political novum, because the Christian Democrats had been in government since 1918. The cabinet continued the economic reforms, but combined this with a progressive outlook on ethical questions and promises of political reform. Kok became very popular prime minister. Kok was not a partisan figure, but combined successful technocratic policy with the charisma of a national leader. In the 1998 elections, the cabinet was rewarded for its stewardship of the economy. The PvdA and the VVD increased their seats, at the cost of D66.

The PvdA expected to perform very well in the 2002 elections. Kok left politics leaving the leadership of the party to his crown prince Ad Melkert. But political rise of Pim Fortuyn frustrated these hopes. The PvdA lost the 2002 elections, and the party's parliamentary representation fell from 45 seats to 23. The loss was blamed on the uncharismatic new leader Melkert, the perceived arrogance of the PvdA and the inability to answer to the new issues, especially immigration and integration, Fortuyn raised. Melkert resigned as party leader and was replaced by Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven. The PvdA was kept out of cabinet. The government formed by CDA, VVD and the List Pim Fortuyn (LPF) fell after a very short period.

Meanwhile,Wouter Bos, staatssecretaris in the second purple cabinet, was elected leader of the PvdA in a referendum among PvdA members, being elected closely to Jouke de Vries. He started to democratize the party organization and began an ideological reorientation. In the 2003 elections, Wouter Bos managed to regain almost all seats lost in the previous election, and the PvdA was once again the second largest party of the Netherlands, only slightly smaller than the CDA. Personal and ideological conflicts between Bos and the CDA leader Jan Peter Balkenende prevented the formation of a CDA-PvdA cabinet. Instead, the PvdA was kept out of government by the formation of cabinet of the CDA, the VVD, and D66, the latter being former allies of PvdA. In the 2006 municipal elections, the renewed PvdA performed exceptionally well. The PvdA became by far the largest party nationally, while the three governing parties lost a considerable number of seats in municipal councils.

It was expected that the PvdA would perform well in the upcoming 2006 electionsFact|date=February 2007, but the party lost the race for Prime Minister to the CDA after suffering a downswing of 9 seats. The PvdA now hold only 33 seats, losing many votes to the Socialist Party. The PvdA had previously distanced themselves from the idea of a voting bloc on the left. It did however join the Fourth Balkenende cabinet in which Wouter Bos became minister of Finance. In the aftermath of the lost elections the entire party executive stepped down on April 26, 2007.

Ideology and issues

The PvdA began as a traditional social-democratic party, committed to building a welfare state. During the 1970s, it radicalized its program and included new issues, such as women's liberation, environmental conservation and Third World development. During the 1990s, it moderated its program, including reform of the welfare state and privatization of public enterprise. In 2005, the party adopted a new program of principles, expressing a centre-left ideology. Its core issues are employment, social welfare, and investing in education, public safety and health care.


1: In combined PvdA/PPR groups (estimate).


The PvdA currently participates in a coalition cabinet with the Christian Democratic Appeal and the ChristianUnion. It supplies six ministers and state secretaries.
*Minister of Finance: Wouter Bos
*Minister of Spatial Planning and the Environment: Jacqueline Cramer
*Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations: Guusje ter Horst
*Minister of Culture and Science: Ronald Plasterk
*Minister without Portfolio for International Development: Bert Koenders
*Minister without Portfolio for Housing and Integration: Ella Vogelaar
*State Secretary for European Affairs: Frans Timmermans
*State Secretary for International Trade: Frank Heemskerk
*State Secretary for Social Affairs: Ahmed Aboutaleb
*State Secretary for Migration: Nebahat Albayrak
*State Secretary for Education: Sharon Dijksma
*State Secretary for Health: Jet Bussemaker

Members of the Lower House of Parliament

After the 2006 elections, the party has 33 representatives in the lower house of parliament:

Members of the Upper House of Parliament

After the 2003 Lower House elections, the party has 19 representatives in the Upper House:
* T.R. Doesburg
* S.J. van Driel
* J.H. Eigeman
* J. Hamel
* E.C.M. Jurgens
* F. Leijnse
*M.Y. Linthorst
*T.A. Maas-de Brouwer
* M.C. Meindertsma
*L.P. Middel
* H.C.P. Noten, fractievoorzitter
* K. Putters
* R. Rabbinge
* J.J. Sylvester
* I.Y. Tan
* E. van Thijn
* M. Westerveld
* A.C.C. Witteman
* W.J. Witteveen

Members of the European Parliament

PvdA MEPs are part of the faction Party of European Socialists.

After the 2004 European Parliament elections, the party has seven representatives in the European Parliament:
* Max van den Berg, fractievoorzitter
* Edith Mastenbroek
* Jan Marinus Wiersma
* Emine Bozkurt
* Dorette Corbey
* Thijs Berman
* Ieke van den Burg

Municipal and provincial government

Provincial government

Two of the 12 Queen's commissioners are member of the PvdA. The party cooperates in all Gedeputeerde Staten except for North Holland.

Municipal government

122 of the 414 mayor of the Netherlands are member of the PvdA. Most famous of them is Job Cohen, mayor of Amsterdam. The party cooperates in many College van Burgemeester en Wethouders, and after the 2006 municipal elections it expected to cooperate in many more.


Historically, the PvdA was supported by the working class. Currently the party is supported relatively well by civil servants, migrants, and the working class. The party has historically been very strong in the major cities, such as Amsterdam, and Rotterdam and in the northern provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe


Organisational structure

The highest organ of the PvdA is the congress, it is formed by delegates from the municipal branches. It convenes once every year. It appoints the party board and decides the order of the First Chamber, Second Chamber, European Parliament candidates list and has the last say over the party program. Since 2002, a referendum under all members has partially replaced the Congres. Both the lijsttrekker of the Second Chamber candidate list, who is the political leader of the party, and the party chairman, who leads the party organisation, are selected by such a referendum. In 2002, Wouter Bos won the PvdA leadership election.


The PvdA currently has 62,000 members. They are organised in over 500 municipal branches.

Linked organisations

The Young Socialists (Jonge Socialisten, JS) is the youth organisation of the PvdA. It is a member of the European Community of Socialist Youth (ECOSY), and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY). They publish the periodical "Lava".

"Rood" is the party periodical. It appears eight times a year.

The scientific institute of the PvdA is the Wiardi Beckman Foundation. It publishes the periodical "Socialisme & Democratie".

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

International organisations

The PvdA is a member of the Party of European Socialists and the Socialist International.

Pillarised organisations

During the period of strong pillarisation the PvdA had strong links with the social-democratic broadcasting organisation VARA, the trade union NVV, and the paper Het Vrije Volk. Although pillarisation has weakened, the PvdA still has friendly relations with the largest trade union FNV and the leftwing broadsheet "De Volkskrant".

Relationships to other parties

Historically, the PvdA has cooperated in cabinets with the Christian-democratic Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Political Party Radicals (PPR), Catholic People's Party (KVP), Anti Revolutionary Party (ARP), Christian Historical Union (CHU) and ChristianUnion (CU) parties and the liberal parties Democrats 66 (D66) and People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).Between 1971 and 1977, Labour was allied with D66 and the PPR. After 1977 until 1989, it was closely allied to D66. Since 2003, the relationship between the PvdA and D66 has considerably worsened, at first because PvdA was in opposition to the cabinet D66 cooperated in. Currently D66 is in opposition to the cabinet PvdA cooperates in.

During the governance of the second and third Balkenende cabinet, the Socialist Party and the GreenLeft were calling for closer cooperation with the PvdA, calling to form a shadow government against the Balkenende cabinet, PvdA-leader Bos has held this off.

International comparison

Internationally, the PvdA is comparable to other European social-democratic parties that have adopted Third Way policies, like the German SPD but most of all the British Labour Party. The party is comparable to the liberals within the U.S. Democratic Party.


External links

* [http://www.pvda.nl Official Website]

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