Party Leadership change at D66: Veteran Pechtold hands over to young talent Jetten

The coalition government has always been difficult for Dutch social liberals; but that never discouraged us from taking responsibility in the national interest. Both the VDB of the years 1901-1946 and my party D66 (founded 1966) have suffered electoral losses because they participated in coalition governments (and Dutch politics always have those), limiting their ability to build profiles on all possible subjects.

Another similarity is that the VDB was the first in the 1930’s to attack principle the pro-Nazi party NSB, and under the party leadership of Alexander Pechtold (2006-2018; ) we were and are the first, and the most insistent and principal attacker of both islamophobe Geert Wilders and Jared Taylor-racism adept Thierry Baudet ( ).

In 2003-’06 we suffered in a coalition with VVD and CDA (they used opposition Populist MP’s to press rightist measures) resulting in significant losses (locally and nationally) in 2006. Former cabinet minister Pechtold became party leader and re-energised and professionalised our party organisation. He attacked Wilders and tried to get necessary but unpopular measures (raising the state pension age; environmentalism; Europeanism) through parliament. These activities resulted in a spectacular resurrection of D66 (see ) from then on.

After years in the opposition wilderness, from 2012 on D66 was able to influence substantially government policy (in exchange for support in the Senate, where governments were in the minority).  Moreover, after the 2017 election, D66 became part of the tripartite “engine block” (VVD/CDA/D66) around which the coalition was build (with the protestant environmentalist ChristenUnie (ChU; To maintain more of our profile than in 2003-06, Pechtold as party leader remained in parliament (as did the leaders of CDA an ChU).
This enabled him to surprise everybody by resigning with immediate effect during his speech at the 2018 D66 Autumn Conference on October 6th last.

His successor (chose by the other D66 MPs) is Rob Jetten (, 31 years old. He studied Science of public administration (M. Sc.) at university in Nijmegen, where he served in the local council for D66 (2010-17), besides advising ISO, a national students union. In 2008-9 he was president of the Young Democrats, our youth wing. In very left-wing Nijmegen politics, he was the voice of reasonable progressives, prioritising Environment, Europe and Education. He worked as a regional manager at ProRail, the Dutch Network Rail. He was MP since spring 2017, inheriting the D66 subscribership of a D66/Labour/Green “Climate Change” Bill from D66 MP, now Environment & Transport minister Stientje van Veldhoven (

Moreover, one of the first things Jetten did was, the day after Pechtolds goodbye reception and a big debate over a tax controversy, today visit the House of Commons to meet our fellow LibDem MP’s and give a big speech with the message ”We want you to stay in the EU”.

* Bernard Aris is a Dutch historian (university of Leiden), and Documentation assistant to the D66 parliamentary Party. He is a member of the Brussels/EU branch of the LibDems.

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This entry was posted in News and Op-eds.


  • Bernard Aris 17th Oct '18 - 3:24pm

    Jettens pro-Remain intervention in the Commons followed other D66 Brexit initiatives.
    At our Autumn Conference we adopted a motion, striving to enable second generation Dutch emigrants (for example in the UK) to retain Dutch citizenry as a second nationality, to maintain their present rights whatever happens.

    And our MEP Sophie in’t Veld and Europe spokesperson Kees Verhoeven MP wrote an opinion piece in the Volkskrant newspaper, calling on all EU member states governments, especially the Dutch, to follow the German lead and make double nationality possible again, not only for Dutch expats but also for UK citizens in the Netherlands.
    The European Parliament is guarding citizens rights for both EU expats in the UK and UK expats on the continent; but the Europarliament is powerless in the case of a No Deal Brexit. In that case, it is up to national governments not only to secure the rights of their citizens in the UK, but also of the UK citizens living on the continent. D66, a Dutch coalition government party, is in that case looking out for Briton’s rights inside the EU!

  • Bernard Aris 18th Oct '18 - 9:24am

    See for the English text of the speech by new D66 party Leader Rob Jetten, yesterday in the Commons:

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