People's Party for Freedom and Democracy

The People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Dutch: Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD; Dutch pronunciation: [vɔl(ə)kspɑrtɛi voːr vrɛiɦɛit ɛn deːmoːkraːˈtsi]) is a conservative-liberal[8][9][10][11] political party in the Netherlands.

People's Party for Freedom and Democracy

Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie
LeaderMark Rutte
(Prime Minister)
ChairwomanChristianne van der Wal
Leader in the SenateAnnemarie Jorritsma
Leader in the House of RepresentativesKlaas Dijkhoff
Leader in the European ParliamentMalik Azmani
Founded28 January 1948 (1948-01-28)
Merger ofFreedom Party and Committee-Oud
HeadquartersMauritskade 21
The Hague
Youth wingYouth Organisation Freedom and Democracy
ThinktankTelders Foundation
Membership (2019) 25,557[1]
IdeologyConservative liberalism[2]
Economic liberalism[3][4][5]
Political positionCentre-right[6][7]
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliationLiberal International
European Parliament groupRenew Europe
ColoursBlue and Orange
12 / 75
House of Representatives
32 / 150
King's Commissioners
2 / 12
80 / 570
European Parliament
4 / 26

The VVD, whose forerunner was the Freedom Party, supports private enterprise and economic liberalism,[3][4][5]

Mark Rutte has been the party's leader since 31 May 2006 and on 14 October 2010 became Prime Minister of the Netherlands, marking the first time that the VVD led a government. The First Rutte cabinet's parliamentary majority was provided by the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and the Party for Freedom, but this majority became unstable when the latter refused to support austerity measures amid the European debt crisis.[12] Therefore, a general election was held in September 2012.[13] The VVD remained the largest party, with 41 seats. From November 2012 until March 2017, the VVD was the senior partner in the Second Rutte cabinet, a "purple" coalition government with the Labour Party. VVD remained the largest party in the March 2017 election (though was reduced to 33 seats); therefore, Rutte was expected to remain as Prime Minister. However, continuing the existing coalition was impossible, as the Labour Party had lost 29 seats, therefore a centre-right coalition was negotiated with the Democrats 66, Christian Union and CDA, which became the Third Rutte Cabinet.



The VVD was founded in 1948 as a continuation of the Freedom Party,[14] which was a continuation of the interbellum Liberal State Party,[15] which in turn was a continuation of Liberal Union.[16] They were joined by the Comité-Oud, a group of liberal members of the Labour Party (PvdA), led by Pieter Oud. The liberals within the Labour Party were primarily members of the pre-war social liberal Free-thinking Democratic League (VDB), who went on to join the Labour Party in the post-war Doorbraak ("Breakthrough") movement. However, they believed that the Labour Party was becoming too socialist for their liking. Oud became the merged party's first leader.

Between 1948 and 1952 the VVD took part in the broad cabinets led by the Labour Party Prime Minister Willem Drees. The party was a junior partner with only eight seats to the Catholic People's Party (KVP) and Labour Party, which both had around thirty seats (out of 100). The Drees cabinets laid the foundation for the welfare state and decolonisation of the Dutch East Indies. In the Dutch general election of 1952 the VVD gained one seat, but did not join the government. In the Dutch general election of 1956 they increased their total, receiving thirteen seats, but were still kept out of government until the general election of 1959, which was held early because of cabinet crisis. This time they gained nineteen seats and the party entered government alongside the Protestant Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP), Christian Historical Union CHU and the Roman Catholic KVP.

In 1963, Oud retired from politics, and was succeeded by the Minister of the Interior Edzo Toxopeus. With Toxopeus as its Leader, the VVD lost three seats in the 1963 election, but remained in government. In 1962, a substantial group of disillusioned VVD-members founded the Liberal Democratic Centre (Liberaal Democratisch Centrum, LDC) which was intended to introduce a more twentieth-century liberal direction pointing to the classical liberal VVD. In 1966, frustrated with their hopeless efforts, LDC members departed the VVD altogether and went on now to form an entirely political party, the Democrats 66 (D66).

In 1965, there also occurred a conflict between VVD Ministers and their counterparts from the KVP and ARP in the Marijnen cabinet. The cabinet fell and without an election it was replaced by the KVP–ARP–PvdA cabinet under Jo Cals, which itself also fell the next year. In the following 1967 election the VVD remained relatively stable and entered yet again the cabinet under Prime Minister Piet de Jong.

During this period the VVD had loose ties with other liberal organisations and together they formed the neutral pillar. This included the liberal papers Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant and Algemeen Handelsblad, the broadcaster AVRO and the employers' organisation VNO.


In the Dutch general election of 1971 the VVD lost one seat and the cabinet lost its majority. A cabinet was formed by the Christian democratic parties, the VVD and the Labour Party offshoot Democratic Socialists '70. This cabinet collapsed after a few months. Meanwhile, the charismatic young MP Hans Wiegel had attracted considerable attention. He became the new leader of the VVD: in 1971 he became the new parliamentary leader, and in 1972 he was appointed lijsttrekker. Under Wiegel's leadership, the party oriented towards a new political course, reforming the welfare state, cutting taxes etc. Wiegel did not shrink from conflict with the Labour Party and the trade unions. With this new course came a new electorate: working class and middle-class voters who, because of individualisation and depillarisation, were more easy to attract.

The course proved to be profitable: in the heavily polarised general election of 1972 the VVD gained six seats. The VVD was kept out of government by the social democratic and Christian democratic cabinet led by Joop den Uyl. Although the ties between the VVD and other organisations within the neutral pillar became ever looser, the number of neutral organisations, friendly to the VVD, expanded. The TROS and later Veronica, new broadcasters which entered the Netherlands Public Broadcasting, were friendly to the VVD. In 1977 the VVD again won six seats bringing its total to twenty-eight seats. When lengthy formation talks between the social democrats and Christian democrats eventually led to a final break between the two parties, the VVD formed cabinet with the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), with a majority of only two seats.

In the general election of 1981 the VVD lost two seats and its partner the CDA lost even more. The cabinet was without a majority and a CDA, Labour and D66 cabinet was formed, falling after only a few months. In 1982 Hans Wiegel left Parliament to become Queen's Commissioner in Friesland and was succeeded by Ed Nijpels. In the general election of 1982 Nijpels' VVD gained ten seats, bringing its total up to 36. Once again, it formed a cabinet with the CDA under CDA Leader Ruud Lubbers. The cabinet began a programme of radical reform of the welfare state, which is still in place today. The VVD lost nine seats in the 1986 election but the cabinet nonetheless retained its majority. The losses were blamed on Nijpels, who stood down as leader of the VVD. He was succeeded by Joris Voorhoeve. In 1989 the CDA–VVD cabinet fell over a minor issue, and the VVD lost five seats in the subsequent election, leaving only twenty-two. The VVD was kept out of government, and Voorhoeve stood down and was succeeded by the charismatic intellectual Frits Bolkestein.


Bolkestein's VVD was one of the winners of the Dutch general election of 1994: the party gained nine seats. It formed an unprecedented government with the Labour Party (PvdA) and the social liberal Democrats 66. The so-called "purple cabinet" led by Wim Kok was the first Dutch government without any Christian parties since 1918. Like many of his predecessors, Bolkestein remained in parliament. His political style was characterised by some as "opposition to one's own government". This style was very successful and the VVD gained another seven seats in the 1998 election, becoming the second largest party in parliament with thirty-eight seats. The VVD formed a second Purple cabinet with the Labour Party and D66. Bolkestein left Dutch politics in 1999 to become European Commissioner. He was replaced by the more technocratic and social liberal Hans Dijkstal.

In the heavily polarised Dutch general election of 2002, dominated by the rise and murder of Pim Fortuyn, the VVD lost fourteen seats, leaving only twenty-four. The VVD nonetheless entered a cabinet with the Christian Democratic Appeal and the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF). Dijkstal stood down and was replaced by the popular former Minister of Finance Gerrit Zalm. After a few months, Zalm "pulled the plug" on the First Balkenende cabinet, after infighting between Pim Fortuyn List ministers Eduard Bomhoff and Herman Heinsbroek.

In the subsequent general election of 2003, the VVD with Gerrit Zalm as lijsttrekker gained four seats, making a total of twenty-eight. The party had expected to do much better, having adopted most of Fortuyn's proposals on immigration and integration. The VVD unwillingly entered the Second Balkenende cabinet with Zalm returning as Minister of Finance and as Deputy Prime Minister. On 2 September 2004, Geert Wilders, a Member of the House of Representatives, left the party after a dispute with Parliamentary leader Van Aartsen. He chose to continue as an Independent in the House of Representatives. On 27 November 2004 Gerrit Zalm was succeeded as Leader by the Parliamentary leader of the VVD in the House of Representatives Jozias van Aartsen.

In 2006 the party lost a considerable number of seats in the municipal elections, prompting parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen to step down. Willibrord van Beek was subsequently appointed parliamentary leader ad interim. In the subsequent party leadership run-off Mark Rutte was elected as the leader, defeating Rita Verdonk and Jelleke Veenendaal.[17]

The general election of 2006 did not start off well for the VVD: Mark Rutte was criticised by his own parliamentary party for being invisible in the campaign, and he was unable to break the attention away from the duel between current Christian democratic Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Wouter Bos of the Labour Party. However, the VVD's campaign started relatively late.[18] The election polls showed losses for the VVD; the former VVD deputy Prime Minister Hans Wiegel blamed a poor VVD campaign for this, caused by the heavily contested VVD leadership run-off between Mark Rutte and Rita Verdonk earlier in the year. Verdonk had her eyes on the deputy-minister post, while cabinet posts are normally decided upon by the political leader of the VVD.[19] On election day, the party received enough votes for twenty-two seats, a loss of six seats. When the official election results were announced on Monday 27 November 2006, preferential votes became known as well, showing that Rita Verdonk, the second candidate on the list, had obtained more votes than the VVD's top candidate, Mark Rutte. Rutte had received 553,200 votes, while Verdonk had received 620,555.[20] This led Verdonk to call for a party commission that would investigate the party leadership position, as a consequence of the situation of her obtaining more votes in the general election than Rutte, creating a short-lived crisis in the party.[21] A crisis was averted when Rutte called for an ultimatum on his leadership, which Verdonk had to reconcile to, by rejecting her proposal for a party commission.[22] During 2007, signs of VVD infighting continued to play in the media. In June 2007, the former VVD minister Dekker presented a report on the previous election, showing that the VVD lacked clear leadership roles, however the report did not single out individuals for blame for the party's losses.[23]

After Verdonk renewed her criticism of the party in September 2007, she was expelled from the parliamentary faction, and subsequently relinquished her membership of the party, after reconciliation attempts had proven futile.[24][25] Verdonk started her own political movement, Proud of the Netherlands, subsequently. In opinion polls held after Verdonk's exit, the VVD was set to lose close to ten parliamentary seats in the next election.[26][27][28]

Jan van Zanen, chairman of the VVD's party board, announced in November 2007 that he would step down in May 2008, a year before his term would end. The rest of the board also announced that they would step down. On the same day of his announcement, honorary member Hans Wiegel called for the resignation of the board, because it could not keep Verdonk in the party.[29][30] Wiegel also opined that the VVD should become part of a larger liberal movement, that would encompass the social liberals Democrats 66, the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders and Rita Verdonk's Proud of the Netherlands movement, although he found little resonance for this ideas from others.[31]

In 2008, the VVD chose a new party chairman, Ivo Opstelten, the outgoing mayor of Rotterdam. Mark Rutte announced at the celebration of the party's sixth decennial that he would rewrite the foundational programme of the party that was enacted in the early 1980s, and offer the new principles for consideration by the party's members in the fall congress.

After the Dutch general election of 2010 the VVD became the largest party with 31 seats and was the senior party in a centre-right minority First Rutte cabinet with the Christian Democratic Appeal supported by the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders to obtain a majority. Rutte was sworn in as Prime Minister on 21 October 2010, becoming both the first VVD Prime Minister ever, and the first liberal to hold the office in 92 years. However, on 21 April 2012, after failed negotiations with the Party for Freedom on renewed budget cuts, the government became unstable and Mark Rutte deemed it likely that a new election would be held in 2012.[32] On election day, 12 September 2012, the VVD remained the largest party in Parliament, winning 41 seats, a gain of 10 seats.

After the 2012 general election the VVD entered into a ruling coalition with the Labour Party as their junior coalition partner. This coalition lasted a full term, but lost its majority at the 2017 election; the VVD itself lost eight seats, though remained the largest party with 33.[33]


The VVD was originally a merger of the Party of Freedom and Freethinking Democratic dissenters within the Labour Party. In this name, both tendencies, classical liberalism ("Freedom") and social liberalism ("People's Party"; "Democracy") are represented. Despite being a liberal party, the VVD did not openly call itself "liberal", mainly because of the for some still lingering negative connotations of liberalism developed during the Great Depression and World War II.

The most common English translation of the name is the literal translation, People's Party for Freedom and Democracy.[34][35][36]

Ideology and issues

The VVD is a party founded on liberal philosophy,[38] traditionally being the most ardent supporter of 'free markets' of all Dutch political parties, promoting political, economic liberalism, classical liberalism, cultural liberalism, but also (in contrast to this) committed to the idea of the welfare state.

Post 1971, the party became more populist, although some conservative liberal elements remain.[4] The 2006 leadership election was interpreted by many as a conflict between a liberal group and a conservative group within the VVD, with the distinctly liberal Rutte beating conservative Verdonk.[39] The results were, with 52% voting for Rutte and 46% for Verdonk.[40]

Liberal Manifesto

The principles of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy are outlined in the "Liberal Manifesto" (Liberaal Manifest) and the election programmes. The Liberal Manifesto is a general outlook on the direction of the party would like to mirror itself and is an extension of the party's foundational principles.[41] The election programmes are more oriented to practical politics, for example, winning the elections on-the-day and by any means possible.

The last Liberal Manifesto of the VVD was published in September 2005.[41] It develops a broad outline around the themes of democracy, security, freedom and citizenship, along with a vision of the future of party's internal structure. Below some of the points from the Manifesto are presented:


  • The Manifesto calls for a directly elected Prime Minister, whereby voters could express their preference on the ballot.
  • The question of (advisory) referendums is not favourable.
  • Mayors should be directly elected by the people.
  • Commitment to the Four Freedoms of the European Single Market.


  • A common policy on defence and security in the European Union is called for.


  • The principle of non-discrimination should be given more importance than the exercise of religion.
  • "Social rights" are to be continued. These are not simply rights, but they also create obligations.
  • Euthanasia is part of a person's right to self-determination.
  • Commitment to an open economy, with a "regulated free-market", including patents.
  • Support for the freedom of contract. No right for workers to enter into nationally binding collective bargaining agreements.


  • Minimise the option of dual citizenship.
  • Social security should only be fully open for Dutch nationals. Migrants would have to integrate in order to become citizens.

Electoral results

House of Representatives

Election Lijsttrekker Votes % Seats +/– Government
1948 Pieter Oud 391,908 7.9 (#5)
8 / 100
2 Coalition
1952 470,820 8.8 (#5)
9 / 100
1 Opposition
1956 502,325 8.7 (#4)
9 / 100
13 / 150
1959 732,658 12.2 (#3)
19 / 150
6 Coalition
1963 Edzo Toxopeus 643,839 10.2 (#3)
16 / 150
3 Coalition
1967 738,202 10.7 (#3)
17 / 150
1 Coalition
1971 Molly Geertsema 653,092 10.3 (#3)
16 / 150
1 Coalition
1972 Hans Wiegel 1,068,375 14.4 (#3)
22 / 150
6 Opposition
1977 1,492,689 17.0 (#3)
28 / 150
6 Coalition
1981 1,504,293 17.3 (#3)
26 / 150
2 Opposition
1982 Ed Nijpels 1,897,986 23.1 (#3)
36 / 150
10 Coalition
1986 1,595,377 17.4 (#3)
27 / 150
9 Coalition
1989 Joris Voorhoeve 1,295,402 14.6 (#3)
22 / 150
5 Opposition
1994 Frits Bolkestein 1,792,401 20.0 (#3)
31 / 150
9 Coalition
1998 2,124,971 24.7 (#2)
38 / 150
7 Coalition
2002 Hans Dijkstal 1,466,722 15.4 (#3)
24 / 150
14 Coalition
2003 Gerrit Zalm 1,728,707 17.9 (#3)
28 / 150
4 Coalition
2006 Mark Rutte 1,443,312 14.7 (#4)
22 / 150
6 Opposition
2010 1,929,575 20.5 (#1)
31 / 150
9 Coalition
2012 2,504,948 26.6 (#1)
41 / 150
10 Coalition
2017 2,238,351 21.3 (#1)
33 / 150
8 Coalition


Election Votes Weight % Seats +/–
23 / 75
1999 39,809 25,3 (#2)
19 / 75
2003 31,026 19,2 (#3)
15 / 75
2007 31,360 19,2 (#2)
14 / 75
2011 111 34,590 20.83 (#1)
16 / 75
2015 90 28,523 16.87 (#1)
13 / 75
2019 78 26,157 15.11 (#2)
12 / 75

European Parliament

Election List Votes % Seats Change Notes
1979 List 914,787 16.14 (#3)
4 / 25
1984 List 1,002,685 18.93 (#3)
5 / 25
1 [43]
1989 List 714.745 13,63 (#3)
3 / 25
2 [44]
1994 List 740.443 17,91 (#3)
6 / 31
3 [45]
1999 List 698,050 19.69 (#3)
6 / 31
0 [46]
2004 List 629.198 13,20 (#3)
4 / 27
2 [47]
2009 List 518.643 11,39 (#4)
3 / 25
1 [48]
2014 List 571.176 12,02 (#4)
3 / 26
0 [49]
2019 List 805,100 14.64 (#2)
4 / 26
1 [50]


Members of the Third Rutte cabinet

Ministers Portfolio Assumed office
Mark Rutte
(born 1967)
Prime Minister General Affairs 14 October 2010
Stef Blok
(born 1964)
Minister Foreign Affairs 7 March 2018
Eric Wiebes
(born 1963)
Minister Economic Affairs
and Climate Policy
26 October 2017
Cora van Nieuwenhuizen
(born 1963)
Minister Infrastructure and
Water Management
26 October 2017
Ministers without portfolio Title (Ministry) Assumed office
Sander Dekker
(born 1975)
Minister Legal Protection

(within Justice and Security)
26 October 2017
Bruno Bruins
(born 1963)
Minister Medical Care

(within Health, Welfare
and Sport
26 October 2017
State Secretaries Title Assumed office
Barbara Visser
(born 1977)
State Secretary • Personnel Affairs
• Equipment Policy
• Special Ops Policy

(within Defence)
26 October 2017
Tamara van Ark
(born 1974)
State Secretary • Social Security
• Unemployment Affairs
• Occupational Safety
• Youth Policy
• Poverty Policy
• Equality
• Emancipation

(within Social Affairs
and Employment
26 October 2017
Source: Members of the government Rijksoverheid

Members of the States General

Members of the House of Representatives

Current members of the House of Representatives since the general election of 2017:

Members of the Senate

Current members of the Senate since the Senate election of 2019:

Members of the European Parliament

Current members of the European Parliament since the European Parliamentary election of 2019:

4 seats:

  1. Malik Azmani (top candidate)
  2. Caroline Nagtegaal-van Doorn
  3. Makkinga Huitema
  4. Liesje Schreinemacher

The MEPs of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy are part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group in the European parliament.

Municipal and provincial government

Provincial government

The VVD provides two out of twelve King's Commissioners. The VVD is part of every college of the Provincial-Executives Gedeputeerde Staten except for Friesland.

In the following figure one can see the election results of the provincial elections of 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015 per province. It shows the areas where the VVD is strong, namely the Randstad urban area that consists out of the provinces North and South Holland, Utrecht and (parts of) Flevoland. The party is weak in peripheral provinces like Friesland, Overijssel, Zeeland, and Limburg.

Province 2003 2007 2011 2015
Votes Seats Votes Seats Votes Seats Votes Seats
Drenthe 18.0%
9 / 51
8 / 41
9 / 41
7 / 41
Flevoland 22.7%
11 / 47
9 / 39
9 / 39
7 / 39
Friesland 10.9%
6 / 55
5 / 43
6 / 43
5 / 43
Groningen 13.4%
7 / 55
5 / 43
6 / 43
4 / 43
Gelderland 16.9%
13 / 75
9 / 53
11 / 55
9 / 55
Limburg 14.5%
9 / 63
7 / 47
8 / 47
5 / 47
North Brabant 19.0%
15 / 79
11 / 55
11 / 55
10 / 55
North Holland 23.0%
20 / 83
13 / 55
13 / 55
11 / 55
Overijssel 13.7%
9 / 63
6 / 47
8 / 47
6 / 47
South Holland 21.4%
18 / 83
12 / 55
12 / 55
10 / 55
Utrecht 20.7%
14 / 63
10 / 47
11 / 47
9 / 47
Zeeland 14.5%
7 / 47
6 / 39
7 / 39
6 / 39

Municipal government

119 of the 380 Dutch Mayors are member of the VVD since 2018. Furthermore, the party has about 250 aldermen and 1100 members of municipal councils. The VVD provides the mayors of several major cities.


Historically the VVD electorate consisted mainly of secular middle-class[61] and upper-class voters, with a strong support from entrepreneurs. Under the leadership of Wiegel, the VVD started to expand its appeal to working class voters.



Party Board

Position Member Position Member
Chair Christianne van der Wal Vice Chair Eric Wetzels
Secretary Stephanie ter Borg Treasurer Ton van Nimwegen
Recruitment and
Fons van Rooij Communication and
Campaign Affairs
Michiel Krom
Education and Training Lennart Salemink

Organisational structure

The highest organ of the VVD is the General Assembly, in which all members present have a single vote. It convenes usually twice every year. It appoints the party board and decides on the party programme.

The order of the First Chamber, Second Chamber and European Parliament candidates list is decided by a referendum under all members voting by internet, phone or mail. If contested, the lijsttrekker of a candidates lists is appointed in a separate referendum in advance. Since 2002 the General Assembly can call for a referendum on other subjects too. The present chairman of the board was elected this way.

About 90 members elected by the members in meetings of the regional branches form the Party Council, which advises the Party Board in the months that the General Assembly does not convene. This is an important forum within the party. The party board handles the daily affairs of the party.

Linked organisations

The independent youth organisation that has a partnership agreement with the VVD is the Youth Organisation Freedom and Democracy (Jongeren Organisatie Vrijheid en Democratie, JOVD), which is a member of the Liberal Youth Movement of the European Union and the International Federation of Liberal and Radical Youth.

The education institute of the VVD is the Haya van Someren Foundation. The Telders Foundation is the party's scientific institute and publishes the magazine Liberaal Reveil every two months. The party published the magazine Liber bi-monthly.

International organisations

The VVD is a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and Liberal International.

Relationships to other parties

The VVD has always been a very independent party. The VVD cooperates on the European and the international level with the social liberal Democraten 66. It has a long history of coalitions with the Christian Democratic Appeal and its Christian democratic predecessors, but was in government with the social democratic Labour Party from 1994 to 2002 and again between 2012 and 2017.

The VVD participates in the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, a democracy assistance organisation of seven Dutch political parties.

See also


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  4. Andeweg R.B. and G.A. Irwin Government & Politics in the Netherlands 2002 Palgrave p. 48
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