Labour Party

Published 13th August, 2012

The Labour Party or PvdA was founded in 1946 as the post war successor to the Social Democratic Workers’ Party which traces its history back to 1893. The party describes itself as centre-left and believes in Social democracy and the Third Way.

From the very start the Labour Party did well in general elections, taking 29 of the 100 seats in the House of Representatives in 1946.

Its leader Willem Drees led the party to a Labour Party and Catholic People’s Party Coalition in 1948 and he remained Prime Minister until 1958 when it went into opposition for 15 years (apart from a brief period 1965 – 1966).

In 1972 the Labour Party contested the election on a joint programme with the Democrats 66 and the Political Party of the Radicals (PPR) and subsequently formed a coalition with them and the Catholic People’s Party (KVP) and Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP).

In 1977, despite increasing its tally of seats to 53 from 43, the Labour Party went into opposition. Apart from a brief period between September 1981 and May 1982 the party remained in opposition until 1989.

In the 1989 election, despite dropping from 52 seats (1986) to 49 seats, the Labour Party returned to government as a junior partner to the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). Dropping again to 37 seats in 1994 the Labour Party led a coalition government known as the Purple Government which had the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and the Democrats 66 as junior partners. That coalition survived the 1998 general election and the Labour Party went up to 45 seats.

After a change of leadership in 2001 the 2002 elections were a disaster and the Labour Party dropped to 23 of 150 seats in the House of Representatives. After a further leadership change the party recovered dramatically a year later and won 42 seats in 2003 but was unable to agree a coalition government with the CDA and so remained in opposition.

In 2006 the Labour Party dipped again, taking 33 seats, but joined the fourth Balkenende Cabinet in February 2007. The party withdrew from the government in 2010 over arguments related to the Dutch presence in Afghanistan. That year the Labour Party dropped once more, taking just 30 seats in the 150 seat House of Representatives and were back in opposition.

The Labour Party is a member of Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists. In the European Parliament where they hold three of 26 national seats they are a constituent member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group.

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