People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy

Published 13th August, 2012

The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy or VVD was founded in 1948 and can trace its roots back to the Liberal Union of 1885. The party describes itself as centre-right and believes in conservatism, liberalism and economic liberalism.

Founded after the Second World War, the party was opposed to Labour-Catholic coalitions and grew only slowly over the next few years. Winning eight seats in the 1948 general election, by the 1960s they were up to 16 seats in a 150 seat parliament.

In the 1970s the party made some advances under the leadership of Hans Wiegel. In 1977 they took 28 seats and joined a coalition government headed by the new Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA).

In 1981 the VVD slipped back to 26 seats and went into opposition, but a year later, in 1982 they shot up to 36 seats and formed a coalition government once more with the CDA. This partnership lasted through the 1986 general election and only faltered in 1989 when the VVD dropped to 22 seats and the party went back into opposition.

In 1994 the party gained ground once more under the leadership of Frits Bolkestein and took 31 seats. They formed what became known as the Purple Government that year with the Labour Party (PvdA) and Democrats 66. The coalition continued after the 1998 election at which the VVD took 38 of the 150 seats in the 150 seat House of Representatives. This was to be their strongest performance so far and put them in parliament as the second largest party.

It was not to last and in 2002 the party dropped 14 seats to take 24 seats. They did, however, conclude a coalition deal with the CDA and brand new party, the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF). This later became known as the first Balkenende Cabinet. The coalition was to last just one year and in 2003 the party increased its seats tally to 28 seats and they formed a coalition government with the CDA and Democrats 66.

In 2006, soon after a leadership election at which Mark Rutte beat off two other challengers to win, the party was distracted and lost six seats to drop down to 22 seats. The party went into opposition but was back in 2010 when they won the general election taking 31 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Mark Rutte formed a coalition with the CDA and a new party, the Party for Freedom (PVV) led by Geert Wilders. Rutte was to become the first VVD Prime Minister and the first liberal to hold the post in 92 years.

The coalition remained unstable and in April 2012 Mark Rutte and his Cabinet resigned after the PVV withdrew support for budget cuts in connection with the Eurozone crisis.

The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy is a member of the Liberal International and of the European Liberal Democratic and Reform Party. In the European Parliament they are members of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group where they hold three of the 26 national seats.

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