Political parties

   The constitution of the new Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1814–1815 limited suffrage to a very small group of rich and propertied people. The political elite remained an oligarchy, even after the proclamation of a new constitution in 1848—inspired by liberal politician Johan Rudolf Thorbecke—which nearly tripled the number of voters from 35,000 to 100,000 (or 3.5 percent of the population). Revisions of the constitution in 1887 and 1896 gradually increased the number of voters, until 1919 when universal suffrage was introduced, enfranchising women for the first time. From 1848 until about 1880, political factions began to manifest themselves in Parliament. Members of Parliament were supposed to make their decisions independently and to the best of their knowledge. During the heyday of liberalism in the second part of the 19th century, the conservatives were only a minority. Meanwhile, more or less or ganized political parties emerged with a formal political program. Reli giousparties were the first to organize in a modern manner: the Protes tants under Calvinist leaders Abraham Kuyper (Antirevolutionaire Partij [ARP]) and Alexander de Savornin Lohman (Christelijk Historische Unie [CHU]), the Roman Catholics under Father Her manus Schaepman. Socialists such as Pieter Jelles Troelstra, anar chists, and communistsfollowed. This political development reflected and reinforced the process of “pillarization,” or verzuiling, in Dutch so ciety. In combination with a rather low electoral threshold, political par ties showed a tendency to diverge along sectarian and ideological lines, even before universal suffrage was granted. Only the Rooms Katholieke Staats Partij (RKSP, Roman Catholic State Party) re mained principally unaffected by this tendency. During the 1930s, a few marginal Fascistand National Socialist parties emerged. Until World War II, the government could rely on coalitions of Liberals, Protestants, and Roman Catholics to constitute a majority in Parliament. Afterward, the Social Democrats were willing to partici pate in “bourgeois” governments. During the 1960s, a process of secularization broke through the pil larized (verzuilde) society and its political party organization. The Catholic and two Protestant parties united as the Christen Democra tisch Appel (CDA, Christian Democratic Appeal) in 1973. With the Partij van de Arbeid(PvdA, Labor Party), the Volkspartij voorVri jheid en Democratie (VVD, Liberal Party), and the Democraten 1966(D66, Democrats), they have dominated the political scene in the last decades. Another characteristic of the Dutch Parliament is the pres ence of many relatively small parties, from which some of them have stable positions and others are nine-day wonders. In the November 2006 elections, for instance, two new parties entered the Parliament: the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV, Party for Freedom) and the Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals). Only a small percentage of voters are members of any political party.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.

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