Political Party Analysis: People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (Netherlands)

The first party we will cover in our analysis of Dutch politics is the party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

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Overview and History

The Dutch People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy is a conservative-liberal party that currently holds the most seats in the Dutch House of Representatives (lower house) and is the leader of a four party coalition.  They are one of the oldest political parties in the country, being founded in 1948.  They have served in 14 out of the 20 coalitions since the party’s founding, making them one of the most important and powerful parties in the Netherlands.  Despite their large part in forming coalitions, Mark Rutte is the first VVD Prime Minister in history, a position he has held since 2010.  They are currently experiencing their most successful period in electoral history, winning the last three elections in 2010, 2012, and 2017.  Historically they have worked with both center-left parties and right-wing parties, while they themselves tend to be described as a center-right party with a conservative-liberal ideology.  Their favored coalition partner has been the center-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), and the VVD tended to be the junior partner in coalitions until 2010, when VVD became the largest party and CDA lost a significant part of its support.  The two parties still formed a coalition in 2010, but required support from the right-wing populist Party for Freedom (PVV) to govern.  When the PVV decided no longer to support the government, new elections were called, and the result was a VVD “Purple Coalition” with their long-time rivals, the Labour Party, following a disappointing result for the CDA.

The 2017 elections saw the collapse of the Labour Party, forcing the VVD to look elsewhere yet again.  After 225 of negotiations (the longest negotiation period in Dutch history), the VVD formed a center-right coalition with the CDA, Democrats 66 (D66), and the Christian Union (CU) with the VVD’s Mark Rutte continuing as Prime Minister.

mark-rutte
Mark Rutte, leader of the VVD and the party’s first Prime Minister.  (Photo from the Atlantic Sentinel)

Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: 1st

The VVD is the strongest party in the Netherlands following the 2017 elections.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Prime Minister: VVD party leader Mark Rutte currently serves as Prime Minister, a position he has held since 2010.  He is the first Prime Minister ever from the party.

House of Representatives: In 2017 the party received 21.3% of the vote and 33 out of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.  The VVD finished in 1st place, with the Party for Freedom coming in 2nd.  The result was a negative one for the party, having lost 5.3% of the vote and 8 seats in the House of Representatives.  They currently lead the four party governing coalition with the social liberal Democrats 66, Christian Democratic Appeal, and the social conservative Christian Union.

Senate: The VVD won 13 out of the 75 seats in the Senate in the 2015 Senate Election, finishing in 1st place.  Members are selected by the states, showing the VVD’s strength at the state level as well as the federal level.

European Parliament: The VVD is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe parliamentary group in the European Parliament.  In the 2014 European Parliament elections, they finished in 4th place with 12% of the vote, earning 3 out of the 26 seats allocated to the Netherlands.  Despite finishing in 4th place, they actually beat their results from the 2009 elections, gaining an additional 0.6% of the vote.

State Parliaments: The VVD holds 89 out of 570 seats throughout the state parliaments following the 2015 Regional Elections, which makes them the strongest party (tied with CDA) throughout the states.  Despite winning the elections, they lost 23 seats throughout the regional parliaments.  They also hold the most seats (or are tied for the most seats) in 8 out of 12 states.

Following the 2017 Election

The rise of the right-wing populist and anti-Islam Party for Freedom (PVV) has made life difficult for the VVD.  The PVV’s gains, through less than feared, have made coalition building difficult for the conservative liberals as they stole from the more right-wing voters of the VVD.  While the two parties did work together following the 2010 election, the tentative support agreement was short-lived and a bitter rivalry has developed due to the extreme nature of the PVV.

The “Purple Coalition” was no longer possible due to the Labour Party’s near complete collapse, and Rutte was not willing to consider negotiations with the 2nd place PVV.  Luckily for the VVD, despite their own losses, the friendly CDA had recovered some of their recent losses and social liberal D66, who have a working relationship with the conservative liberals, had one of their best elections in party history.  Combined with the CU, the four parties managed the slightest of majorities: 76 seats out of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.

As of September of 2018, the VVD’s support has remained fairly stable at around 20% to 22%, similar to the results of 2017.  Overall, their coalition’s support has dropped slightly, though, signalling more trouble ahead for the next election in 2021 (or before if the government fails to last the four years).


Economic and Fiscal Policy 

The VVD’s economic and fiscal policy revolves around the idea of the “social market economy”, which involves mostly laissez-faire economics, but with slightly more intervention than a free market economy.  Along with this approach, the party favors lower corporate, value added, and income taxes, combined with cuts in spending to reduce the Netherlands’s deficit and debt.  This includes a balanced budget as part of their platform.  Part of their policy while in power has also been to slowly raise the retirement age from 65 over time, a policy that many other parties have explicitly opposed.  While the party also advocates for increased military spending, this is mainly to reach the required levels set by NATO, as the Netherlands currently spends relatively little on its military.  In terms of welfare, the “social” element of the social market economy comes in, as they do support welfare for those who are disabled or truly cannot work, and for those who can work, they want a small and limited safety net with the incentive to return to work.  They also advocate for decreases in the car tax and other fines against motorists.  For the environment and greenhouse gases, the VVD wishes to open up restrictions on the market, advocating for innovation to find the best alternative to coal and oil, and believes that subsidies towards any particular industry may damage innovation elsewhere.  The VVD also supports the EU, largely for its single market policy, which they want to expand by reducing regulations to allow for more free trade, in and out of the EU.  For healthcare, they support competition among insurers while still mandating that everyone pays for at least a basic plan.  They also want to promote competition inside the area of public transit, transitioning most buses, trams, and metros to private ownership.

Liberty Rating*:  A-

Social and Foreign Policy

The factions of of the conservative-liberal party clash on social policy.  They support same-sex marriage, soft-drug legalization, and euthanasia, but they are somewhat split on immigration, while generally being supportive of limited immigration, the right-wing of the party is becoming more opposed to the immigration of low-skilled workers and refugees.  Still, they are accepting of immigrants and asylum seekers but do not support immigrants receiving welfare, as they are not citizens.  The VVD also advocates the banning of burqas in public for security reasons.  On dual citizenship, they would like to limit the amount of people able to earn it, increasing the required time living in the country from 5 years to 10 years.  They are pro-choice before 24 weeks.  The party is also focused intently on cyber security with attempts not to violate the rights of individuals, but they do favor surveillance.  In terms of foreign policy, they are supportive of the EU, and they believe more border security should be enforced at the EU level.  They are also careful and against intensive military intervention unless it is to protect the Netherlands against terrorism, advocating a more non-interventionist foreign policy.

Liberty Rating*:  B-

Political Spectrum**

vvd-spectrum

Based on our liberty ratings for the VVD’s economic and social policy, they are a center-right conservative-liberal party in the “Libertarian” sector of the chart.  It is not the extreme in any direction and has multiple factions, each which is in a slightly different location on the spectrum, but overall the party ends up in the libertarian sector instead of the “Right” sector due to its support for soft-drugs, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage.  It also avoids being in the centrist sector due to its general support for small government, a balanced budget, laissez-faire, and deregulation.

Read our analysis of other Dutch Political Parties:


*Disclaimer: The policy positions in this article have been evaluated using Wikipedia, the party’s own website, and various articles concerning Dutch politics.  We attempt to rate the parties based on all information that is available, but due to language barriers, lack of information, or simple mistake we may have missed something.  If you feel our liberty ratings or general evaluations are incorrect, please let us know on our contact page or nicely in the comments and we’ll try to fix it.  If you have questions on how these ratings are created, feel free to ask as well.

**This spectrum shows economic liberty on the right axis and social liberty on the left axis, so 100 on both axis is “pure” libertarianism and 0 on both axis is pure authoritarianism for example.

Author: Brendan Noble

I am a political consultant, data-analyst, Hillsdale College economics alumnus, and conservative-libertarian. Twitter: @Brendan_Noble

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