Political Party Analysis: Democrats 66 (Netherlands)

The next party we will cover in our analysis of Dutch politics is the social-liberal Democrats 66 (D66).


Overview and History

Democrats 66 (D66) is a mid-major center-left to center social-liberal party in the Netherlands.  Their name comes from their foundation year, 1966, and they have been a smaller power in Dutch politics ever since.  Usually holding seats in the single digits or low double digits, they have been a part of the government just under half the time, usually with Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).  They hit the lowest point in their history in 2006, when they received only 2% of the vote and 3 seats in the House of Representatives, but have recovered in subsequent elections and will hope to continue increasing in influence after their victory in the 2014 European Elections.

D66 European Parliament Leader Sophie in ‘t Veld (left) and Party Leader Alexander Pechtold (right) celebrated the party’s best ever European Parliament result in 2014. (Photo from Flickr)

Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: 5th

D66 is the 5th strongest party in the Netherlands heading into the election on March 15th.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Prime Minister: The Democrats have been the junior partner in multiple coalitions, but they have never had a Prime Minister.

House of Representatives: In 2012 the party received 8% of the vote and 12 out of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.  D66 finished in 6th place, the same position that they had in the previous election, but they gained 1.1% of the vote and 2 seats.

Senate: D66 won 10 out of the 75 seats in the Senate in the 2015 Senate Election, a massive victory for the party as they doubled their seats in the chamber and finished in 3rd place.  This was only the second time in the party’s history that it reached double digits in the Senate. Members of the Senate are selected by the states, showing D66’s recent growth at the state level.

European Parliament: Democrats 66 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 1st place with 15.4% of the vote, earning 4 out of the 26 seats allocated to the Netherlands.  This was the best result the party has ever achieved in the European parliamentary elections, earning 4% more of the vote than in 2009 and gaining 1 seat.

State Parliaments: D66 holds 67 out of 570 seats throughout the state parliaments following the 2015 Regional Elections, which makes them the 4th strongest party throughout the states.  Leading into their success in the Senate elections, these results were a huge result for the party, as they gained 25 seats throughout the regional parliaments.  They also hold the most seats (or are tied for the most seats) in 1 out of 12 states.

Projections for 2017 Election

D66’s recent success in the 2014 European elections and both the 2015 State and Senate elections has expectations high for the 2017 election.  Opinion polling indicates that those expectations may be achieved, as we project that D66 will receive between 14 and 18 seats in the House of Representatives.  This would be their best result since 1994 and put them in 3rd or 4th place, depending on the results of the CDA, who polling at very similar levels to D66.  They have likely benefited slightly from the falling popularity of both Labour and the VVD, as D66 is somewhere between the two ideologically.

(March 9th update): D66 has has a slight bump in the polls since January.  They are now expected to receive between 16 and 21 seats.

As long as things don’t dramatically change between now and the election, D66 will be part of the resulting coalition.  As they have worked with VVD in the past, they will be one of the first parties approached, along with the CDA, to begin the negotiations.  The resulting coalition would likely be the VVD/D66/Christian-Democratic/Labour or 50Plus coalition we mentioned in our general preview of the election   They have also ruled out a coalition with the PVV, meaning the VVD is likely to be the only party possible to lead negotiations.

Economic and Fiscal Policy 

Democrats 66 supports a somewhat mixed style economy, specifically a market basis with regulation.  This mix comes across in their banking policy, as they support increased oversight and supervision over banks, but they also support allowing alternative credit institutions (example: credit unions) to form and reducing the amount of deposits that the government insures.  In terms of the market in general they want to make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs, reducing red tape for startups, even guaranteeing approval if the government does not review a startup’s creation fast enough, and lowering the employee benefit requirements for small businesses.  They also advocate a reduction of the income tax (for lower and middle classes), a short-term safety net for unemployed, education vouchers for long-term unemployed (to discourage early retirement), and promotion of private investments and retirement funds.  For education in general D66 wants the limited introduction of more competition to help the quality of options available.  They have helped implement healthcare reform by introducing limited market forces and freedom to choose your doctor while still advocating a basic required plan.  In terms of environmental regulations, they favor expansion of them to reduce the Netherlands’s impact on global warming.  D66 also wants to encourage free(er) trade in and out of the European Union.  Finally, on the budget they advocate for more fiscal responsibility and reduction of the debt.

Liberty Rating*:  C+

Social and Foreign Policy

Modernization of the Dutch Constitution and social policy is key for D66.  Through this they want to lift the ban on speech against the monarch, force the royal family to pay taxes, and abolish the indirectly elected Senate.  D66 also wants to end the ban on hate speech and blasphemous speech. They also strongly advocate for privacy rights, stating that all digital communications are private unless specific suspicion arises, but judicial review is still required.  They are very liberal on drug policy, advocating the eventual decriminalization or legalization of all drugs under heavy regulation.  They are also pro-choice**, supportive of euthanasia, and in favor of regulated prostitution.  On immigration they are very accepting but advocate for more EU border security cooperation, a more fair spreading of refugees across the EU, and an overall united policy for refugees across the EU.  For their European policy in general, they want increased integration: one airspace over all of the EU, more united military (at least communication), shared police and intelligence information, and more power to the European Parliament.  They are generally opposed to intervention but support limited military involvement to stop terrorism.

Liberty Rating*:  A-

Political Spectrum***


Based on our liberty ratings for D66’s economic and social policy, they are a center-left to center social-liberal party with a very pro-EU policy.  They solidly within the “Libertarian” sector on social policy due to their support for gay-marriage, acceptance of refugees and immigrants, and especially calling for the decriminalization (with regulation) of all drugs.  For economic policy they fall into the “Libertarian” instead of the “Left” sector due to their support for reduced regulations on small businesses, lowered income taxes, and freeing up alternatives in the credit industry.

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.

**Abortion is a topic that is split among the liberty movement, but it is the opinion of this site that it is anti-liberty, and we take that into consideration in our evaluation of parties.

***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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