What a start of a new coalition! D66 both the biggest (Dutch) progressive and the biggest Liberal party

In my previous postings about the D66 contribution on entering the new Dutch coalition government (here and here), I noted that D66 surprised everybody in Dutch politics by being able to have some profiling, and indubitably progressive programmatic points in the coalition agreement. Also, D66 was the main provider of women (cabinet) ministers; and they are highly qualified women politicians!

A brief “tableau de la troupe” of the new Dutch government…

It consists of two Liberal parties: the progressive, pro-European D66 and the more eurosceptical, car-owner oriented VVD (with prime minister Mark Rutte); and two Christian Democrat ones:
the CDA, the traditional, ecumenical-christian party with oodles of government experience, and
the ChU, an orthodox-protestant, green/humanitarian party with just one previous coalition under its belt.

Since then we have had two national meetings open to all D66 members to get feedback on how they see this coalition participation, and the program we’ll be governing under.

First, there was, in early November, a presentation of the coalition agreement with the whole negotiating team (and its main advisers) answering all questions and reacting to all doubts; party co-founder and second party leader Jan Terlouw (1973-’82; still very popular across the Dutch parties spectrum; an important voice on green and technological innovation issues) declared his admiration for this program.

And, just last weekend, we had the regular D66 Autumn Conference, where members could react to events by putting forward motions and resolutions.

The mood at both events was one of pleasantly surprised, enthousiastic and self-confident members; there have been coalitions where D66 entered into with less self-confidence, with more foreboding (for example in 2003, right after Pim Fortuyn and 9/11 shook up Dutch politics, and launched a permanent populist presence in our parliament).

And the resolutions carried at this conference reflect that the party wants to push on in the same direction: we want a more humane European refugee politics (like Tim Farron at Calais; more facilities and shelter on Greek islands); a special Cabinet minister for all climate issues; and a European “Minister” for Finance & Economic Affairs combined.

Our MEP Sophie in’t Veld (who was a big hit at LibDem Autumn 2015 Conference) pleaded movingly on the Greek Islands issue. Because of the dualism in Dutch politics between parliament and government, party leader Alexander Pechtold MP could promise the entire government, including D66 ministers, a rough ride if they diverge from the strongly D66-tinted coalition agreement.

Another remarkable thing: for the first time ever we surpassed the VVD in membership. They are in a structural decline (you never see them on the streets or canvassing at election time); but we rose from around 26.500 in January to a straight 28.000 now; 2500 extra members while negotiating with three less progressive parties!

* 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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2 Comments

  • paul barker 21st Nov '17 - 1:56pm

    Thanks for these informative article.
    Does anyone know whats happening with our Sister Party in Germany, The FDP ? The context is very different but it looks to me as though our position on Migration would be closer to The Greens than The FDP, what do others think ?

  • @paul barker – the FDP aren’t much like the LibDems. Think of the FDP as a Thatcherite conservative party, and you’re basically there. It’s the secular conservative party in Germany, in contrast with the more Christian-inspired conservative parties CDU and CSU.

    I would say the LibDems have some crossover with the German Greens, but it’s not that simple: They are much more of a leftist party with anticapitalist elements.

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