The ‘liberal’ label is being used by many political parties in the Netherlands. It’s hard to do justice to all of them within the scope of this page, but we’ll try.
- VVD is the centre-right, pro-business party, which is calling itself ‘liberal’, because it favours maximal individual freedom and a free-market economy, with low taxation. Since its founding in 1948, its left and right wing have repeatedly clashed. VVD is the Dutch party with the closest resemblance to what is called a conservative party in other countries.
- D66 is the centre-left reformist democrat party, formed in 1966, sometimes referring to itself as ‘social-liberal’. It combines pro-individual freedom and pro-welfare state viewpoints. D66 is also a strong advocate of direct democracy, having campaigned for a corrective referendum and for electing rather than appointing mayors.
- Green Left is the progressive leftwing party, seen as ‘free-thinking liberals’ promoting climate-friendly measures, a fair division of tax burdens, and pushing for more equal-opportunities policies. The party was formed in 1989 out of a group of four small left-wing parties.
- PVV is Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, founded in 2006. Often classed as a ‘conservative liberal’ party, it combines an uncompromising anti-Islam policy with a pro-health care view, favours protection of the ‘common hard-working Dutch person’ and wants to protect gay rights.
All four ‘liberal’ parties share the view that politics and religion should be strictly separated, a disputed view in the Netherlands with its long tradition of Protestant and Roman-Catholic party politics.
Liberalism in the Netherlands goes back to the 19th century. Its founding father was MP and later Prime Minister Johan Rudolph Thorbecke (1798 – 1872), whose rewritten constitution was adopted by parliament in 1848. It changed the Netherlands into a parliamentary democracy, substantially reducing the role of the king in state affairs.