The Netherlands have a large number of political parties, as a result of the low electoral threshold for the parliament. At the elections of 1994, eight parties got one or more seats out of 150 in the Lower Chamber (called Tweede Kamer in Dutch). Four years later, during the last elections, there were nine:
- Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA) 45 seats : Labour Party (socialists)
- Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD) 39 : People's party for Freedom and Democracy (liberals)
- Christen Democratisch Appèl (CDA) 28 : Christian Democrats
- Democraten 66 (D66) 14 : Democrats (center)
- GroenLinks 11 : Green Left (former communists and pacifists)
- Socialistische Partij (SP) 5 : Socialist Party (left of Green Left)
- Reformatorische Politieke Federatie (RPF) 3 : Reformatory Political Federation (Christian right)
- Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP) 3 : Political Reformed Party (Christian right)
- Gereformeerd Politiek Verbond (GPV) 2 : Reformed Political Union (Christian right)
To form a government supported by a majority of the Lower Chamber, a coalition between CDA, VVD and LPF was formed in 2002, with CDA-leader Jan Peter Balkenende as PM. That cabinet has fallen in the meantime. Before that a coalition had been formed by PvdA, VVD and D66, also called Paars II (Purple II), led by Prime Minister Wim Kok (PvdA). It was a continuation of the 1994 coalition, which was obviously called Paars.
Dutch politics has known three movements since the 19th century. The liberal movement, personalized through statesman J.R. Thorbecke, marked the current constitution of 1848. This started the parlementiary democracy in the Netherlands. The VVD is an exponent of this movement.
The Christian Democrat, Protestant and Catholic parties were born during the so-called Schoolstrijd, a school funding controversy. The main issue was whether private christian schools should be getting money from the government, just like public schools. This right was founded in the constitution in 1917. The ontzuiling (see religion in the Netherlands) stimulated cooperation between the christian parties, resulting in CDA. The old-fashioned orthodox protestant part of the Netherlands is represented by SGP, GPV and RPF. SGP came in the news recently because they forbid women to take part on their behalf in the next elections.
Founded in 1946, the PvdA has its roots in the Dutch workers' movement. The socialist people's party played an important role in the recovery of the country after World War II, which is still clearly visible in the social security system.
The fourth largest party is Democraten 66, founded in the 1960's to express the urge for political renovation in those days. GroenLinks resulted from a fusion between the Pacifist Socialists (PSP), the Radicals (PPR) and the Communists (CPN). As soon as GroenLinks got popular and moved a little towards the center of the political perspective, the Socialist Party was founded, representing the most radical leftish thinkers in parliament. Right extremists were present in the Tweede Kamer for a short time in the 1990's, but eventually even the dumbest of Dutch people got fed up with their nonsense. The elderly were also briefly represented in the Lower Chamber with two parties that did not succeed in holding on to their strong positions (together they held 7 seats in 1994, but 0 in 1998).