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Democraten 66

Democraten 66 (D66), is a political party of the Netherlands. It was founded on October 14, 1966 as D'66 by 44 people, 25 of whom had been active in other parties. The initiators were Hans van Mierlo, a journalist of the Algemeen Handelsblad who became the party leader, and (J.)Hans Gruijters.

In the Tweede Kamer elections of 1967 the party obtained 7 seats. In the 1971 elections it obtained 11 seats. In the 1972 elections it was reduced to 6 seats, but in 1973 became part of a governing five party coalition.

After the even more disastrous provincial elections of 1974 under Jan Terlouw, and a period under leadership of Maarten Engwerda, its fortunes were restored in 1990 when Hans van Mierlo once again became the top election candidate (lijsttrekker). D66 became a member of the two "purple" coalitions, supplying members of the first and second cabinets of Wim Kok.

In the 2002 elections with lijsttrekker Thom de Graaf (also faction chairperson) the number of its seats was reduced from 14 to 7 and it returned to the opposition. In 2003 D66 dropped further to 6 seats. Thom de Graaf decided to not stay party leader, but did remain as a 'normal' member of parliament. He has been succeeded by Boris Dittrich.

Reason for existence

A constantly recurring theme of discussion within the party has been the question of its founding principles, the reason for its existence. The first party congress described the party as standing for a radical democratisation of society in general and of the political system in particular. The emphasis lay for a long time on the second component, with the party advocating the use of the referendum, abolition of the Eerste Kamer, direct elections of the Prime Minister and city mayors, and the introduction of a moderate districts system. The co-founder Van Mierlo was also an exponent of the democratic radicalism, a movement that in the 19th century was crushed between socialism and liberalism. He had little interest in other visions about the direction and social policy of the party. Terlow tried to give the party a direction of its own as a "reasonable alternative", with attention to the environment, social questions and technology, Van Mierlo returned in the mid 1980s with his speech "A reason of existence". The primary reason lay, according to this speech, in the political renewal.

At the end of the 20th century a new position arose. After the anti-dogmatism of the party seemed to have become the party's very own dogma, the group Opschudding (shake-up) in 1998 managed to break through this dogma and were the first in the party to provide a subtitle. From then on, D66 was "Social Liberal". Opschudding described it thus: D66 exists as a Social Liberal party in order to build a durable, democratic and open society, in which the individual develops in solidarity with others. The party hereby placed itself in the free thinking stream of international politics of the left liberalism and in the political philosophy of the developmental liberalism.

With this embedding in the left liberalism, D66 has found a second reason for existence. This second reason doesn't replace the first however, since it is incorporated. Developmental liberalism places the "free but responsable" individual central. It wants to give individuals, in equality, influence so that they can make their own contribution to life and society. The latter requires openness and democracy and in this way the original reason for the existence of the party is incorporated.

D66 is a member of the Liberal International and of the Party of European Liberal Democrats (ELDR).

Cabinet members from D66 (in first PurpleCabinet 1994-1998)