Democrats 66

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Democrats 66
Party leader vacant
Party leader Anne-Marie Spierings
Group Chairman, Second Chamber Rob Jetten
Chairman of the First Chamber Annelien Bredenoord
EP Head of Delegation Sophie in 't Veld
founding October 14, 1966
Headquarters The hague
Alignment Left Liberalism
Colours) green and white
Sit in the First Chamber
Sit in the second chamber
Seats in the European Parliament
Number of members 26,451
European party ALDE
EP Group RE

Democrats 66 (D66; pronounced [democratn zɛsɛnsɛstəx] or [deː zɛsɛnsɛstəx] ) is a left-wing liberal party in the Netherlands . It was founded in 1966 to break up the established party system and has been represented in parliament in varying degrees since 1967. D66 is considered the party of the center par excellence . She has been a member of the Dutch government since 2017 and was previously involved in the years 1973–1977, 1981–1982, 1994–2002 and 2003–2006.

Well-known political leaders in the early years were the journalist Hans van Mierlo and the children's book author Jan Terlouw . From 2006 to 2018 the art historian Alexander Pechtold took over the chairmanship of the parliamentary group , he was replaced by Rob Jetten . The youth organization is called Jonge Democrats (JD).


Foundation and objectives in the 1960s

February 1967: the first parliamentary group of D66 in the Dutch parliament. In the first row (from left to right) Minne Dijkstra, Sef Imkamp and. Hans van Mierlo in the second row on the right.

D66 was founded on October 14, 1966 by a group of intellectuals, the most important person of which soon emerged as the journalist Hans van Mierlo, who twice served as party leader and also held various state offices.

Although the party is largely classified as social liberal today, this does not correspond to its original self-image. D66 was initially set up to offer a sensible alternative ( redelijk alternatief ) to the established political structures in the Netherlands, to bring more transparency into the public discussion and to achieve a higher degree of direct democracy. This included, among other things, the demand for the direct election of mayors and the prime minister as well as the later abandoned idea of ​​breaking up the party system and bringing about a new, large “progressive” people's party.

So the initial aim was not to found an ordinary party. The program and the form of organization should be developed in an open discussion with the broadest possible public participation. Early elections in 1967 shortened this process and led to D66 orienting itself to the conventional political rules of the game earlier than planned.

Despite a lead time of just a few months, D66 won 4.5 percent of the vote in the 1967 parliamentary elections and was able to send seven members to the Second Chamber . Since this initial success, the Democrats have been continuously represented in the Dutch parliament, albeit in very different strengths.

Left government participation in the 1970s

D66 Minister for Housing, Hans Gruijters , at the party conference in March 1974 in Tiel

In the run-up to the 1971 election, the Democrats joined the Progressief Akkoord , an alliance with the social democratic PvdA and the recently founded (Christian left) PPR . This alliance went into the election campaign with the declared intention of rolling back the previously dominant role of the traditional three Christian parties. D66 was able to increase its share of the vote to 6.8 percent and win eleven seats; their electoral alliance remained far removed from the majority. But the Christian-led minority cabinet that was formed after the election soon failed.

As early as 1972, the polls were held again, which finally led to the formation of the Uyl cabinet (PvdA) in 1973 . The D66 also took part in this first left-wing government, although they suffered a setback in the elections with a result of 4.2 percent and six seats. Participation in government did not seem to do the party well: the polls sank and in their own ranks (which were thinning) the demand for self-dissolution was loud, because many saw the D66 had reached a point that contradicted the original goals.

Up and down under changing leadership

Top candidate Jan Terlouw 1982

Van Mierlo gave up the party leadership in 1974; under his successor Jan Terlouw there was a reorientation, which among other things led to a greater distance from the PvdA. In the second half of the 1970s, D66 succeeded comparatively well in absorbing the demands of the new social movements (such as the environmental and peace movement). That paid off in the next elections: In 1977 D66 was able to slightly improve its result with 5.4 percent of the votes and eight mandates. In the first direct election of the European Parliament, the Democrats received 9 percent of the vote and provided two of the 25 Dutch MPs. The 1981 parliamentary elections gave them the record result of 11.1 percent, which allowed them to increase the number of their MPs to 17. Due to the good result, D66 was included in the formation of a grand coalition of PvdA and CDA and provided three of the 15 ministers; Jan Terlouw became one of the two deputy prime ministers.

When this coalition broke up after only a year, the CDA formed a minority government with the Democrats until the new elections in autumn 1982. This was not honored by their voters: D66 fell to 4.3 percent of the vote and only had a share of the vote six MPs. Although she was now doing opposition work again, her values ​​continued to decline in the years that followed. In the European elections in 1984 she left parliament.

Hans van Mierlo at a party conference speech in 1985

In this critical situation, her co-founder Hans van Mierlo took over the top candidacy for the 1986 election campaign. The downward trend was halted with a result of 6.1 percent (nine seats). Once again working in the opposition, the Democrats were able to further expand their position in the elections in 1989: 7.9 percent of the vote now brought them back a dozen MPs.

"Purple" coalition 1994-2002

The 1990s brought the Democrats, who were initially still opposed, their best election results to date and their longest participation in a government. In the 1994 parliamentary election, the party received 15.5 percent of the vote and 24 seats. For the first time in the history of the Netherlands, a cabinet without a denominational party was formed. The “purple” coalition (mixed color of the red of the social democrats and the blue of the liberals) consisted of the PvdA and the two liberal parties D66 and VVD under Prime Minister Wim Kok . D66 had four ministers in the cabinet, van Mierlo became foreign minister and deputy prime minister.

In the 1998 election, the coalition was strengthened, but this only benefited the other two partners: The Democrats fell to nine percent of the vote and lost ten seats. Mathematically, they were no longer needed to form the majority, but they continued to form the hinge between social democrats and right-wing liberals. They could only fill three ministerial posts; the top candidate Els Borst-Eilers now acted as Deputy Prime Minister and kept the sports and health department.

In May 1999 there was a coalition crisis when a constitutional amendment aimed primarily by D66 to introduce a “corrective” referendum in the First Chamber failed. The Democrats already lost part of the protest voters in this phase to the growing alliance Groen Links , in which left Christians ( EPP and PPR ), pacifist socialists and old communists found themselves.

Heavy losses 2003–2007

In the 2002 election, all three governing parties lost massive votes. D66 fell to 5.1 percent and seven seats, while the right-wing populist protest party Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) received a sensational 17 percent (it became the second largest group with 26 seats). The Christian Democrats recovered and became the strongest force. Its political leader Jan Peter Balkenende formed a coalition with the right-wing liberal VVD and the LPF. Just one year later, in 2003, new elections were necessary because Balkenende no longer saw the LPF as capable of governing.

While the LPF lost about two thirds of its voters, the PvdA recorded the most significant gains. However, the strongest force remained the CDA, so the end of the beam could remain in office. It was now based in parliament on a slim majority from CDA, VVD and D66. A break in this coalition threatened in the spring of 2005, when the direct election of mayors, which had been envisaged especially at the instigation of D66, failed due to a social democratic blocking minority in the First Chamber. Thom de Graaf , D66 minister for bestuurlijke vernieuwing (for example: “state renewal” or “reform of the executive”), resigned from office and pleaded for his party to leave the coalition.

However, the three parties agreed in the Paasakkoord ("Easter Agreement") on further reform steps, and a special party congress of D66 on April 2, 2005 in The Hague , which was attended by around 2,700 members, voted with a clear majority for a continuation of the coalition . The poor performance of the Democrats in the local elections in March 2006, where they received 2.6 percent of the vote and lost almost half of their seats, sparked renewed discussion about remaining in the governing coalition. At the party congress on May 13, 2006 in Zutphen , the motion to terminate the coalition did not receive a majority. The dissolution of the party, which was also discussed in advance, was not on the agenda; however, a small group of disappointed members formed a new organization called DeZES. In June 2006, the members of the party voted Alexander Pechtold, who had been a member of the government as the successor to Thom de Graaf since the end of March 2005, as the top candidate for the upcoming parliamentary election. He narrowly prevailed against the competitor Lousewies van der Laan , who was serving as the D66 parliamentary group leader in the Second Chamber at the time.

Shortly afterwards, D66 ensured that a new parliament had to be elected sooner than expected - because it had now left the governing coalition. She voted with the left opposition for a motion of censure against Integration Minister Rita Verdonk (VVD), who was criticized in connection with the controversial expatriation of Ayaan Hirsi Ali . However, this request was rejected by a parliamentary majority made up of CDA, VVD and smaller right-wing parties. As Prime Minister Balkenende then stuck to Verdonk, the D66 ministers announced their resignation and triggered a government crisis that led to early elections on November 22nd.

At their autumn congress on October 7th, D66 celebrated its 40th anniversary - albeit against the background of extremely poor survey results. In the election on November 22, 2006 , they again lost voters; with just two percent of the vote, they fell back to eighth place.

In the elections for the provincial parliaments on March 7, 2007, the Democrats won 2.6 percent of the vote nationwide, which was a slight improvement on the autumn election, but on the other hand meant a loss of around 2 percent compared to the comparative election in 2003. As a result of this result, they only had two seats in the new First Chamber (instead of three previously).

Consolidation since 2007

In the period that followed, D66, as an opposition headed by Pechtold, was able to gradually expand its position among voters. In the European elections on June 4, 2009, she and her top candidate Sophie in 't Veld achieved a share of 11.3 percent of the vote (compared to 4.2 percent in 2004), increasing the number of MEPs from one to three and for the first time since Celebrate another significant electoral success for 15 years. In doing so, it succeeded in becoming the strongest political force in some large cities (including Amsterdam and Utrecht ) with more than twenty percent of the vote. In the course of the year, the party was able to increase its membership by around fifty percent and reached the highest level in its history at over 18,000.

The upward trend was confirmed in the municipal council elections on March 3, 2010, when D66 tripled its 2006 result with a nationwide vote of 8.1 percent. Similar to the European elections, it left all competing parties behind in several cities (including Leiden and Hilversum ) with values ​​over twenty percent.

The TV presenter Pia Dijkstra was elected to the Chamber in 2010 with preferential votes.

For the early election of the Second Chamber on June 9, 2010 , Alexander Pechtold was re-elected as the party's top candidate. The Democrats presented their program under the title We willen het anders (“We want it differently”). The party achieved an average value of 6.9 percent. In the last phase of the election campaign she had explicitly supported a coalition pair plus (VVD, PvdA, D66 and GroenLinks), but after the formation of the government found herself in opposition to the center-right government of VVD and CDA, which the PVV tolerated.

The party was also able to record a success in the election of the provincial parliaments on March 2, 2011; With 8.3 percent of the votes and the resulting five seats in the First Chamber, it was able to roughly triple its result from 2007.

After the PVV, led by Geert Wilders , refused to approve an austerity package from the minority government in April 2012 , which led to the resignation of the Rutte I cabinet , the parliamentary group of D66, together with GroenLinks and ChristenUnie, voted for a concept for a stability program negotiated with VVD and CDA. In the new parliamentary election in autumn 2012 , the party was able to increase its share of the vote to eight percent and send a dozen members to the second chamber. In the municipal council elections on March 19, 2014, D66 achieved a nationwide share of the vote of 12.08 percent and became the strongest party in numerous large cities, including Amsterdam, where the Partij van de Arbeid succeeded in ousting the leading position it had held for decades. In the first opinion polls after the local elections, the Democrats were also seen as the strongest party at the national level. This trend was confirmed in the European elections on May 22, 2014 , when D66 left all its competitors behind with 15.4 percent of the vote. In the parliamentary elections on March 15, 2017 , the party won 19 seats with a share of the vote of 12.2 percent and since October 26 has four ministers in the Rutte III cabinet , which is supported by a Christian-liberal coalition led by the VVD . At the beginning of 2018, the number of members reached 28,820, the highest level ever.

Position in the political spectrum

Hans von Mierlo and other D66 politicians on an election walk in Amsterdam in 1971

The history of D66 stands for a continuity that most party start-ups in the Netherlands have been denied. Yet it was unable to really catch up with the three traditional governing parties. For a long time, only CDA, PvdA and VVD reached consistently more than 10 to 15 percent of voters ; these still represent - albeit with reservations - the three major ideological camps of the Christian-oriented voters, the workers and the more classical liberals.

D66, on the other hand, does not represent any of the main pillars of Dutch society; it was initially aimed at promoting the dismantling of Verzuiling and bringing more openness to the political process. However, it only has a core electorate of no more than two percent and has to compete with a relatively large and constantly changing number of smaller parties for unbound voters. The very different election results are partly related to the fact that D66 represents a kind of backup party for many voters of the Big Three if they are currently dissatisfied with their actual preferred party. According to a recent study, they have a potential of around a quarter of those eligible to vote.

In contrast to their small competitors, the Democrats can look back on a number of government participations and are a possible coalition partner for each of the three big parties, but the voters apparently prefer to see them as an opposition. Because their biggest crises are certainly not accidentally associated with government participation: in 1973/74 they lost almost their entire base and were on the verge of self-dissolution, in 1981/82 they lost two thirds of their voters in a year because they formed a minority cabinet with the CDA formed, and their longstanding participation in the "purple" coalition from 1994 to 2002 led to the same effect in the long term. They were also in a critical phase from 2003 to 2006. On the basis of their weakest election result to date, they took part in a center-right coalition and struggled to make their social-liberal profile visible to voters.

The withdrawal from this coalition at the end of June 2006 came too late as an attempt to better position itself for the early elections in the fall of that year. In their new opposition role, however, they have been able to win back a large number of voters and members since 2007 with the “Anders ja” campaign under the leadership of Alexander Pechtold. In 2010, the party won significantly more in the election, since 2012 D66 has been represented in the Second Chamber with twelve MPs and came in the position of the strongest party for the first time in the opinion polls in spring 2014. This consolidation under the leadership of Pechtold is accompanied by a professionalization of the party and a certain shift to the right in the political spectrum.

Election results

Second Chamber of the States General

Information from Databank Verkiezingsuitlagen .

year be right Seats Started as
1967 4.5% 7th Opposition party
1971 6.8% 11 Opposition party
1972 4.2% 6th Opposition party
1977 5.4% 8th Ruling party
1981 11.1% 17th Opposition party
1982 4.3% 6th Ruling party
1986 6.1% 9 Opposition party
1989 7.9% 12 Opposition party
1994 15.5% 24 Opposition party
1998 9.0% 14th Ruling party
2002 5.1% 7th Ruling party
2003 4.1% 6th Opposition party
2006 2.0% 3 Opposition party
2010 6.9% 10 Opposition party
2012 8.0% 12 Opposition party
2017 12.2% 19th Opposition party

First chamber

In the First Chamber, the 66 Democrats have had ten MPs since the May 28, 2015 election.

European Parliament

The party has been represented in the European Parliament with four MEPs under the leadership of Sophie in 't Veld since 2014 . You belong to the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe .

Provinces and municipalities

After the March 2015 election, D66 sent 67 MPs to the provincial parliaments and since the March 2014 election has had 824 representatives on the municipal councils. It provides 20 of 344 mayors.

Party leader

Former D66 chairwoman Letty Demmers
Hans van Mierlo 1966-1967
Derk Ringnalda 1967
Hans van Lookeren Campagne 1967-1968
Jan Beekmans 1968-1971
Ruby van der Scheer-van Essen 1971-1973
Jan ten Brink 1973-1976
Jan Glastra van Loon 1976-1979
Henk Zeevalking 1979-1981
Cees Spigt (interim) 1981
Jan van Berkom 1981-1982
Jacob Kohnstamm 1982-1986
Olga Scheltema (interim) 1986
Saskia van der Loo 1986-1988
Michel Jager 1988-1990
Ries Jansen 1990-1992
Wim Vrijhoef 1992-1996
Tom Kok 1996-1999
Gerard Schouw 1999-2002
Alexander Pechtold 2002-2005
Frank Dales 2005-2007
Ingrid van Engelshoven 2007-2013
Fleur Gräper 2013-2015
Letty Demmers 2015-2018
Anne-Marie Spierings since 2018

Group chairman in the Second Chamber

Rob Jetten has been parliamentary group leader since 2018.
Hans van Mierlo 1967-1973
Jan Terlouw 1973-1981
Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst 1981-1982
Maarten Engwirda 1982-1986
Hans van Mierlo 1986-1994
Gerrit-Jan Wolffensperger 1994-1997
Thom de Graaf 1997-1998
Els Borst-Eilers 1998
Thom de Graaf 1998-2003
Boris Dittrich 2003-2006
Lousewies van der Laan 2006
Alexander Pechtold 2006-2018
Rob Jetten 2018 – today


  • Joost Sneller, Daniël Boomsma: Between Rebellion and Government. The D66 as a factor in Dutch politics. In: Carla van Baalen et al. a .: A fragmented landscape. Contributions to the past and present of Dutch political parties. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2018, pp. 59–83.
  • Menno van der Land: Tussen ideal en illusie. De geschiedenis van D66, 1966-2003 . SDU, The Hague 2003. ISBN 90-12-09573-5 . Abstract (PDF; 70 kB; Dutch)
  • Menno van der Land: Langs de afgrond. Tien turbulent years in the divorce of D66 . Eburon, Delft 2012, ISBN 978-90-5972-718-2 .
  • Koos van Weringh: D66 of Een Boerenpartij voor keurige mensen . Mets en Schilt Uitgevers, Amsterdam 2006, ISBN 90-5330-518-1 (Collection of cartoons about the Democrats 66 )

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b D66 ledentallen per jaar (1966-). In: Documentatiecentrum Nederlandse Politieke Partijen. University of Groningen , February 12, 2019, accessed on February 23, 2019 (Dutch).
  2. a b D66 middenpartij bij uitstek . ( Memento from May 11, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 59 kB) Politieke Barometer
  3. See individual results of the municipalities at NOS ( Memento of June 8, 2009 in the Internet Archive ).
  4. Parlement & Politiek, January 20, 2010: Ledentallen partijen: winst voor D66 en PvdD, left voor SP en PvdA
  5. Nederlands Dagblad: Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen 2010 ( Memento of March 8, 2011 in the Internet Archive ).
  6. How the parliamentary groups want to save 14 billion euros . NetherlandsNet, April 26, 2012
  7. ^ D66 largest party in Amsterdam . De Telegraaf, March 19, 2014; Retrieved April 14, 2014
  8. Dutch General Election: 30 March 2014 poll , accessed April 18, 2014.
  9. Results from metapolls , accessed on April 28, 2014.
  10. ^ Thijs Broer & Max van Weezel: De professionalizing van een partij. Hoe D66 een need . In: Vrij Nederland , vol. 75, no. 17/18 (April 26 - May 7, 2014), pp. 26–32.
  11. Tim Mäkelburg: Party shift to the right in the dossier parliamentary elections 2012 at NetherlandsNet , accessed on April 28, 2014.
  12. Historical election statistics Databank Verkiezingsuitslagen; Retrieved September 16, 2012
  13. Landelijk overzicht burgemeestersposten ( May 2016) ( Memento from October 22, 2016 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on October 21, 2016