Labour Party (Netherlands)

For the Belgian political party of the same name, see Partij van de Arbeid (Belgium).



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The Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA), or "Labour Party", is a social democratic political party in the Netherlands. The PvdA was formed on February 9, 1946, as a merger of three parties: the socialist SDAP, the minor left-liberal VDB and the marginal social-protestant CDU. The PvdA has been one of the major parties in the Netherlands ever since.

Due to the nature of Dutch elections and political culture, governments are usually formed by coalitions rather than a single party, and the Labour Party was involved in several "Red-Roman" coalitions with conservatives, the Catholic People's Party (KVP) and later the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA, formed by a merger of KVP and other parties), in the years between 1946 and 1994. A number of Prime Ministers have been recruited from the PvdA. The first one was Willem Schermerhorn, a former VDB politician, until July 1946. In 1948, Willem Drees the proverbial embodiment of all that is good in Dutch politics, became Prime Minister, which he remained for 10 years. He has earned the title "father Drees", both for his presiding over the recovery from the Second World War and the introduction of the provisional Old Age Pension act, that guaranteed a minimum income for everyone over 65.

After a period where the PvdA was influenced by newly formed left parties, Joop den Uyl served as Prime Minister from 1973 to 1977. In the social-democratic tradition, he was more a national leader than a party man. He strongly defended the membership of NATO in spite of its unpopular nuclear weapons policy, which earned him the title "Atom bomb Joop" in party circles. When the PvdA pursued a more leftwing confrontational course in the late 1970s, it was excluded from government until 1989, when the PvdA formed a coalition with the CDA.

Missing image
PvdA activists in a demonstration (October 2004)

After the elections of 1994, the PvdA emerged as the biggest party, even though it lost 12 seats in parliament. With the PvdA, the right-liberal VVD and left-liberal D66 being of a roughly equal size in parliament there was for the first time an opportunity to form a government coalition without the Christian Democrats. With Wim Kok becoming prime minister, the socalled "purple coalition", blending social democratic red with liberal blue, governed the country until 2002.

The 2002 elections saw a big loss for the PvdA, which obtained only 23 seats in the Tweede Kamer, the lowest number since the party was established. The parliamentary party's candidate leader Ad Melkert resigned from his position as a result of this election. In the 2003 elections, the new political leader 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. After the election they built up a commanding lead in the opinion polls, aided by the slow formation process for the second Balkenende cabinet.

Fate has it that every socialist Prime Minister has had to deal with a Royal crisis, necessitating on the basis of constitutional law the defence of the monarchy against a traditional republican party base:

  • During the Drees cabinet, a faith healer Greet Hofmans acquired commanding influence over the queen and had already put her marriage in jeopardy. Drees needed all his discretion to get her banned from the palace.
  • During the Den Uyl government, it was shown that the Lockheed Aircraft Company had given large sums to the Prince Consort, who had a nominal position as inspector-general of the Air Force. Moreover, the Princess Royal ripped open many a wartime wound in marrying a German.
  • The same insensitivity was shown by the then Prince Royal during the Kok cabinet, in marrying an Máxima Zorreguieta, an Argentinian civilian whose father, Jorge Zorreguieta, was a cabinet member in Argentina during the junta period.

Number of seats in the Tweede Kamer, of the 150 total:

  • 1956 - 50
  • 1959 - 48
  • 1963 - 43
  • 1967 - 37
  • 1971 - 39
  • 1972 - 43
  • 1977 - 53
  • 1981 - 44
  • 1982 - 47
  • 1986 - 52
  • 1989 - 49
  • 1994 - 37
  • 1998 - 45
  • 2002 - 23
  • 2003 - 42

External links

fr:Parti du Travail (Pays-Bas) nl:Partij van de Arbeid sv:Partij van de Arbeid


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