A Lecture on Dutch Politics

Few things catch my attention like the word “FREE!”

On a walk down an avenue near the University I spotted a poster advertising a free lecture on Dutch politics. The lecture was to be held at 6:30 in the Law Facility, and I had every intention of being there.

With a few hours to kill before the lecture, I walked around and discovered back neighborhoods, boutiques, hidden windmills, a petting zoo and other “personality” places that together, form the perfectly quirky Maastricht that I love.

I then met my friends for dinner at Kiwi, which I was told was a popular and affordable spot for students to meet – I imagined a Chipotle equivalent.

Click here to see photos of Kiwi – this “college hangout” is a snapshot of how the Dutch are way trendier than American college students.

We ended up sitting next to girls our age from New Zealand and Australia and combined tables to enjoy a dinner full of laughter and accusations of pronouncing common English words funny. Connections are more quick and effortless in different countries, and social norms don’t exist. Wildly inappropriate conversations dictated our dinner topics. Despite our new friends’ efforts to keep us at Kiwi instead of attending the lecture, my two friends and I bolted at 6:20 to try and arrive on time to the lecture.

We were moving at a brisk trot (ok more like a pathetic girly run) and rounded a corner perfectly in sync with my Irish friend coming down the street. I let out a croaking “I am out of breath” type “AHHELO” really not cool. He greeted me with an “oy!” in that perfectly attractive Irish accent. We turned down a dinner invitation because we were so determined to make it to this free lecture! He pointed us in the right direction, and off we went again, trying not to giggle at the serendipitous run-in and my awkward social skills.

We miraculously arrived at the lecture before it started, and took our seats near the back of the half-full auditorium. From the handout, I learned that this lecture is sponsored by JEF Maastricht – the local section of the Young European Federalists.

Click here to learn more about JEF – Europe.

Attending a federalist event in the birthplace of the Maastricht Treaty seemed appropriate, and I sat back in anticipation of the lecture.

I took notes during the lecture, but had many gaps in my comprehension. I knew little about Dutch politics or even much on Dutch history going into the lecture. For most school subjects in the States, I at least have some background on the material. It was a challenging experience sitting through a lecture with extremely limited background knowledge on the subject.

Between scribbling notes and trying to piece together the lecture, here is what I learned:


  • Transitioned to Kingdom of the Netherlands from a former republic system


  • Parliamentary rule was added with the Constitutional Monarchy to form a parliamentary democracy.
  • Political tension existed between the liberals (wanted to extend parliamentary power) and the conservatives (wanted to respect royal power)

1860′s – ish

  • Catholics and Protestants had been politically divided, but during this era joined forces against secular liberal parties.
  • Big issue was over education. Catholics and Protestants wanted their children to be educated in religious institutions, not in state school, and demanded funds for religious schools. The Christian block succeeded and won funding.


  • Growth of the Labor Movement
  • Time of strong Pillarisation
  • Pillarisation is essentially a divide in society – politically, socially and religiously.
  • Pillars included: Roman Catholic pillar, Protestant pillar, Social Democrat pillar and General
  • Civil and political life were organized within the pillars, voters followed the precedents set by the pillars’ political leaders; newspapers operated within pillars.

Early 1900′s

  • 1919 Women gain the right to vote. (Editor’s note: WAHOO!)
  • Christian parties held majority in parliament


  • German invasion of Holland
  • The Netherlands hoped to stay neutral (held neutral position during WWI) but capitulated after the Germans destroyed Rotterdam.
  • 75% of the Dutch Jewish population was killed in concentration camps – this is a much higher percentage than neighboring countries.

Post war

  • Return to a religiously-dominated parliament
  • 1956 – parliament expanded from 100 to 150 seats

Starting in the ’60s…

  • Populations became less religious, and political affiliations became more secular
  • Economically, the labor party was shrinking
  • Post-war baby boom created a younger voting class with less political affiliation to existing pillars
  • Pillar lines blurred, new parties formed at a rapid rate, lots of political friction with many small parties


  • Christian Democrat party had parliamentary majority, centrist
  • Conservative Liberal party gained support, social-democrat
  • Dutch Labor Party (had to Google to finally figure this out! The Dutch call this party the PVDA) more left-wing, social-democrat
  • These three parties rose above all the small factions and formed the basis of modern Dutch politics


  • The Purple era – Purple for the mixing of red/blue (socialist/liberal)
  • Liberal legislation on abortion, gay rights, euthanasia all introduced during Purple era
  • 2002 – the rise of Pim Fortuym List (fascinating leader, read more about him here) who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform. He was shot a week before elections, leaving 26 seats out of the 150 in parliament without a political leader


  • Dutch politics in constant flux
  • The lecturer theorized that this constant flux and disorganization is natural. Because the pillar system fell, he sees Dutch politics in a period of finding a new way to organize
  • There is no stable political demographic. The most stable is the meritocratic divide, classified by the level of education.
  • The political agenda is focused on economic issues, and therefore is somewhat stable because it is a one-topic dominated agenda
  • general population seems dissatisfied with politicians
  • Immigration is still a big issue

I’m hoping to find a professor to have lunch with and learn more about politics in the Netherlands. This outline is my very basic understanding, and I hope to learn a more dynamic history of Dutch politics. The lecture did not talk much on modern day politics, but I hope to gain a larger insight by simply being in the Netherlands.

The Purple era is especially interesting to me. America is struggling to pass a liberal agenda, and it is incredible to me that a country was able to make so many strides in one ideological direction in such a short amount of time. Much controversy surrounds the murder of Pim Fortuym List, and it is fascinating to entertain thoughts about what direction the Netherlands would’ve taken under his leadership.

The United States operates with a two-party system. In the Netherlands, it is not unusual to see more than nine parties holding seats. Because 76/150 seats are necessary to have parliamentary majority, parties have to form allegiances and share common goals to get anything done.

The Electoral College doesn’t exist in Holland, thus where votes are cast does not matter. Voting is instead based on proportional representation. The percentage of the nation that votes for a party = the percentage of seats in national parliament. This system allows small parties to be represented.

We have a system of checks and balances with the United States governing system. The Dutch follow a model of consociationalism, which is essentially power-sharing.

Different systems, both work.

With that said, I look forward to learning more about politics in the Netherlands. Sitting through one lecture on the topic has only created a very thin baseline understanding, and I can’t wait to learn more and gain a more dynamic understanding.



Posted on by Reagan J Payne in Part I, Uncategorized

One Response to A Lecture on Dutch Politics

  1. Gloria

    El manifiesto inicial del grupo fue firmado por 24 escritores revolucionarios,
    entre los que María Villar Buceta period la única mujer.

Add a Comment