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Democraten 66 (D66), is a social liberal party in the Netherlands.


Short history

It was founded on October 14, 1966 as D'66 by 44 people, 25 of whom had been active in other parties. The initiators were Hans van Mierlo, a journalist of the Algemeen Handelsblad who became the party leader, and Hans Gruijters.

In the Tweede Kamer elections of 1967 the party obtained 7 seats. In the 1971 elections it obtained 11 seats. In the 1972 elections it was reduced to 6 seats, but in 1973 became part of a governing five party coalition.

After the even more disastrous provincial elections of 1974 under Jan Terlouw, and a period under leadership of Maarten Engwirda, its fortunes were restored in 1990 when Hans van Mierlo once again became the top election candidate (lijsttrekker). D66 became a member of the two "purple" coalitions, supplying members of the first and second cabinets of Wim Kok.

In the 2002 elections with lijsttrekker Thom de Graaf (also faction chairperson) the number of its seats was reduced from 14 to 7 and it returned to the opposition. In 2003 D66 dropped further to 6 seats. Thom de Graaf decided to not stay party leader, but did remain as a 'normal' member of parliament. He has been succeeded by Boris Dittrich.

After the formation of a cabinet of christian democrats and social democrats failed, D66 joined a coalition with CDA and VVD. Thom de Graaf became deputy prime-minister and minister of administrative reforms. He concentrated on the (direct) elections of mayors and a change of the electoral system. After the defeat of a government proposal to deconstitionalize the crown appointment of the mayors, he resigned. D66 restarted negociations with CDA and VVD for an eventual continuation of the coalition. This lead to the so-called Easter Agreement. Subsequently a special party congress, with 2,600 members (is 20 % of the membership) present and live broadcasted on Dutch public television, agreed with a large majority to remain in government. De Graaf is succeeded by Alexander Pechtold as minister. Laurens-Jan Brinkhorst, the minister of economic affairs, became deputy-prime minister.


The party has a strong internal separation of powers. Political leader is the group leader in parliament, Boris Dittrich. Other members of parliament are Lousewies van der Laan, Bert Bakker, Boris van der Ham, Ursie Lambrechts and Fatma Koser-Kaya. The leader of the party in the government was Thom de Graaf. Alexander Pechtold, former mayor of Wageningen, was president of the party, responsible for party affairs, but resigned when he became minister. Acting party president is now Jan Hoekema. The functions of member of parliament and member of the board of the party are incompatible.

Identity: radical democratic and social liberal

A constantly recurring theme of discussion within the party has been the question of its founding principles, the reason for its existence. The first party congress described the party as standing for a radical democratisation of society in general and of the political system in particular. The emphasis lay for a long time on the second component, with the party advocating the use of the referendum, abolition of the Eerste Kamer, direct elections of the Prime Minister and city mayors, and the introduction of a moderate districts system. The co-founder Van Mierlo was also an exponent of the democratic radicalism, a movement that in the 19th century was crushed between socialism and liberalism. He had little interest in other visions about the direction and social policy of the party. Terlouw tried to give the party a direction of its own as a "reasonable alternative", with attention to the environment, social questions and technology, Van Mierlo returned in the mid 1980s with his speech "A reason of existence". The primary reason lay, according to this speech, in the political renewal.

At the end of the 20th century a new position arose. After the anti-dogmatism of the party seemed to have become the party's very own dogma, the group Opschudding (shake-up) in 1998 managed to break through this dogma and were the first in the party to provide a subtitle. From then on, D66 was "Social Liberal". Opschudding described it thus: D66 exists as a Social Liberal party in order to build a durable, democratic and open society, in which the individual develops in solidarity with others. The party hereby placed itself internationally as a progressive liberal party. Domestic reasons explain the usage of the label social liberal, since the more right-wing VVD labels itself as the liberal party. The social liberal identity is confirmed in the party constitution and in its declaration of principles (Uitgangspunten).

With this embedding in the left liberalism, D66 has found a second reason for existence. This second reason doesn't replace the first however, since it is incorporated. Developmental liberalism places the "free but responsible" individual central. It wants to give individuals, in equality, influence so that they can make their own contribution to life and society. The latter requires openness and democracy and in this way the original reason for the existence of the party is incorporated.

With its policies and ideas D66 is a continuation of the Vrijzinnig Democratische Bond (Freethinking Democratic League). Some D66 members prefer to label themselves as freethinking democrats.

International affiliations

D66 is a member of the Liberal International and of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party (ELDR). D66 member Wilfried Derksen is one of the vice-presidents on the bureau of ELDR. Its member in the European Parliament, Sophie in 't Veld sits in the group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Cabinet members from D66 since 1994

See also

External links

eo:D66 fr:Democraten 1966 nl:Democraten 66 pl:Demokraci 66 sv:Democraten 66


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