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Paars is the Dutch word for purple, but it carries a much broader meaning than that.

The colour stood for two consecutive Dutch cabinets between 1994 and 2002, led by social-democrat Wim Kok. Combining the colours red and blue - red representing the social-democrats (PvdA) and blue representing both the conservative liberals (VVD) and progressive liberals (D66) - cabinets were formed with very broad political support. The purple cabinets Kok I and Kok II based their rule on consensus, consultation and compromise, known as the 'poldermodel'. (The word 'compromis' does not carry a negative load in Dutch).

In this period (also thanks to the Akkoord van Wassenaar in 1982 and the no-nonsense politics of the Reaganiteite-Thatcherite Ruud Lubbers cabinets (1982-1989), the Netherlands became an example of perceived harmony and prosperous economy. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair hailed Wim Kok and its cabinet for being a perfect example of the so-called Third Way.

The formation of the first purple cabinet was very innovative at the time, combining progressive elements of D66 and PvdA with conservative elements of VVD. Though both VVD and D66 are called 'liberals', this word does not carry the same load in Dutch as it does in English. Liberalism, especially the VVD-kind, is percieved in the classical way, meaning 'without state interference' (see Adam Smith). Though the cabinets Kok have been quite successfull in certain areas, after the collapse of purple due to the NIOD report into the fall of Srebrenica in 1995, politicians of all three fractions turned away from the achievements of purple. The Dutch people were notably discontent at that time, partly because of the seeming lack of responsibility taken by the purple cabinets over the previous eight years, partly because of a declining economy.

Pim Fortuyn and Leefbaar Nederland made good use of criticizing the moral decline of the Netherlands during Kok I and Kok II. During the elections following the purple political crisis the Dutch electorate swung right, creating support for the first Balkenende cabinet.

Paars is also the name of a commune of the Aisne département in France.