GreenLeft was formed in 1989 as a merger of four leftwing political parties: the Communist Party of the Netherlands, Pacifist Socialist Party, the Political Party Radicals and the Evangelical People's Party. After disappointing results in the 1989 and 1994 the party fared particularly well during 1994 and 2002. The party's leader Paul Rosenmöller was seen as the unofficial leader of the opposition against the Cabinets Kok by the media, fellow politicians and academics, even though it was only the second largest party in the opposition. In late 2002 Femke Halsema took over the political leadership of the party. She emphasizes tolerance, freedom and emancipation as key values of the party.
Currently the party is represented by seven seats in the Tweede Kamer, four in the Eerste Kamer and two in the European Parliament. Party leader, and chair of the Tweede Kamer parliamentary party, is Femke Halsema. The party is in opposition against the fourth cabinet Balkenende. The party has over 100 aldermen and it participates in the government of sixteen of the twenty largest municipalities in the Netherlands. The party's voters are concentrated in larger cities, especially those with a university.
From the 1980s onwards the four parties started to cooperate in municipal and provincial elections. As fewer seats are available in these representations a higher percentage of votes is required to gain a seat. In 1984 the PPR, CPN and PSP formed the Green Progressive Accord that entered as one into the European elections. They gained one seat, which rotated between the PSP and PPR. Party-members of the four parties also encountered each other in grassroots extraparliamentary protest against nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. More than 80% of the members of the PSP, CPN and PPR attended at least one of the two mass protests against the placement nuclear weapons of 1981 and 1983
The Evangelical People's Party was a relatively new party, founded in 1981, as a split off from the large Christian democratic Christian Democratic Appeal. During its period in parliament 1982-1986 it had trouble positioning itself between the small left paties (PSP, PPR and CPN), the PvdA and the CDA.
The increasingly close cooperation between PPR, PSP, CPN and EVP, and the ideological change that accompanied it was not without internal dissent within the parties. The ideological change that CPN made from revolutionary marxism-leninism to "reformism" led to a split in the CPN; and the subsequent founding of the League of Communists in the Netherlands in 1982. In 1983, a group of "deep" Greens split from the PPR, to found the the Greens. To enter the election of 1986 the CPN and the PPR wanted to form an electoral alliance with the PSP. This led to a crisis within the PSP, in which chair of the parliamentary party Fred van der Spek, who opposed cooperation ,was replaced by Andrée van Es, who favoured cooperation. Van der Spek left the PSP to found his own Party for Socialism and Disarmament (in Dutch: Partij voor Socialisme en Ontwapening, PSO). The 1986 PSP congress, however, rejected the electoral alliance.
In the elections of 1986 all these four parties lost seats. The CPN and the EVP disappeared from parliament. The PPR was left with two and the PSP with one seat. While the parties were preparing to enter in the 1990 elections separately, the pressure to cooperate however also increased. In 1989 the PPR, CPN and PSP entered the European elections with a single list, called the Rainbow. Joost Lagendijk and Leo Platvoet, both PSP party board members, initiated an internal referendum in which the members of the PSP declared to support leftwing cooperation (70% in favour; 64% of all members voting). Their initiative for leftwing cooperation was supported by an open letter from influential members of trade unions (such as Paul Rosenmöller and Karin Adelmund), of environmental movements (e.g., Jacqueline Cramer) and from arts (such as Rudi van Dantzig). In the letter they called for the formation of a single progressive paty on the left side of the PvdA. Lagendijk and Platvoet had been taking part in informal meetings between prominent PSP, PPR and CPN-members, who favoured cooperation. Other participants were PPR-chairman Bram van Ojik and former CPN-leader Ina Brouwer. These talks were called "F.C. Sittardia" or Cliché bv.
In the spring of 1989 the PSP party board initiated formal talks between the CPN, the PSP and the PPR about a common list for the upcoming general elections. It soon became clear tha the CPN wanted to maintain an independent communist identity and not merge into a new left wing formation. This was reason for the PPR to leave the talks. Negotiations about cooperation were reopened after the fall of the Second cabinet Lubbers and the announcement that elections would be held in the autumn of that year. This time the EVP was included in the discussion. The PPR was represented for a short while by an informal delegation led by former chair Wim de Boer, because the party board did not want to be seen re-entering the negotiations it had left only a short while earlier. In the summer of 1989 the party congresses of all four parties accepted to enter the elections with a shared program and list of candidates. Additionally the association Green Left (Dutch: Vereniging Groen Links; VGL) was set up to allow sympathizers, not member of any of the four parties to join. Meanwhile the European elections of 1989 were held, in which same group of parties had entered as a single list under the name "Rainbow". In practice the merger of the parties had now happened and on November 24 1990 the party Green Left was officially founded.
In the 1989 elections the PPR, PSP, CPN and EVP entered in the elections with one single list called Groen Links. In the Netherlands, which forms one single electoral district, parties enter in the elections with one list for the whole country. The top spot of the list (the lijsttrekker) is taken by the party's political leader, who often becomes chair of the parliamentary delegation. The GreenLeft list of candidates was organized in such a way that all the parties were represented and new figures could enter. The PPR which had been the largest party in 1986 got the top candidate (taken by Ria Beckers) and the number five, the PSP the numbers two and six, the CPN the number three and the EVP number eleven. The first independent candidate was Paul Rosenmöller, trade unionist from Rotterdam, the number four. In the elections the party doubled its seats in comparison to 1986 (from three to six) but the expectations had been much higher. In the 1990 municipal elections the party fared much better however, strengthening the resolve to cooperate.
In the period 1989-1991 the merger developed further. A board was organized for the party-in-foundation and a Green Left Council, which was supposed to control the board and the parliamentary party and stimulate the process of merger, all five groups (CPN, PPR, PSP, EVP and the Vereniging Groen Links all had seats as ratio of the number of party members. Originally, the three youth organizations, the CPN-linked General Dutch Youth League, the PSP-linked Pacifist Socialist Young Working Groups and the PPR-linked Political Party of Radical Youth refused to merge under pressure of the government, who controlled their subsidies they did merge to form DWARS. In 1990 some opposition formed against the moderate, green course of the Green Left. Several former PSP-members united in the "Left Forum" in 1992 they would leave the party to join former PSP-leader Van der Spek to found the PSP'92. Similarly former members of the CPN joined the League of Communists in the Netherlands to found the New Communist Party in the same year. In 1991 the congresses of the four founding parties (PSP, PPR, CPN and EVP) decided to officially abolish their parties.
The Green Left had considerable problems with formulating its own ideology. In 1990 the attempt to write the first manifesto of principles failed because of the difference between socialists and communists on the one side and the more liberal former PPR-members on the other side. The second manifesto of principles which was not allowed the name manifesto of principles was adopted after a lengthy debate and many amendments in 1991.
Although the party was internally divided the Green Left parliamentary party was the only party in the Dutch parliament which opposed the Gulf War. A debate within the party about the role military intervention led to a more nuanced standpoint than the pacifism of some of its predecessors: the Green Left would support peace-keeping missions as long as they were mandated by the United Nations.
In the fall of 1990 MEP Verbeek announced that he would, as he had promised, leave the European Parliament after two and a half years to make room for a new candidate. He would continue as an independent and remain in parliament until 1994. In the 1994 election, he would run unsuccessfully as top candidate of the Greens.
In 1992 party leader Ria Beckers left the Tweede Kamer because she wanted to spend more time on her private life. Peter Lankhorst replaced her as chair ad interim, but he announced that he would not take part in the internal elections.
Before the election of 1994 the GreenLeft organized an internal election on the party's political leadership. Two duos entered Ina Brouwer (former CPN)/Mohammed Rabbae (independent) and Paul Rosenmöller (independent)/Leoni Sipkes (former PSP) and five singular candidates (including Wim de Boer (former chair of the PPR and member of the Eerste Kamer), Herman Meijer (former CPN; and future chair of the party) and Ineke van Gent (former PSP and future MP)). Some candidates ran in duos because they wanted to combine family life with politics. Brouwer, Rosenmöller and Sipkes already were MP for the GreenLeft, Rabbae was new, he had been chair of the Dutch Centre for Foreigners. In the first round the duos ended up a head of the others, but neither had an absolute majority. A second round was need which Brouwer and Rabbae won with 51%. Brouwer became the first candidate and Rabbae second, the second duo Rosenmöller and Sipkes occupied the following place followed by Marijke Vos, former chair of the party. The duo-top candidacy did not communicate well to the votes. The GreenLeft lost one seat, leaving only five, while the PvdA also lost a lot of seats.
After the elections, Brouwer left parliament, she was replaced as party leader by Paul Rosenmöller and her seat was taken by Tara Singh Varma. The charismatic Rosenmöller became the "unofficial leader" of the opposition against the cabinet Kok because the main opposition party the CDA was unable to adapt well to its new role as opposition party. Rosenmöller set out a new strategy: the GreenLeft should offer alternatives instead of just rejecting the proposals made by the government.
In the elections of 1998 the GreenLeft more than doubled its seats to eleven. The charisma of the charismatic "unofficial leader" Rosenmöller played an important role in this. Many new faces entered parliament, including Femke Halsema, a political talent who had left the PvdA for the GreenLeft in 1997. The party began to speculate openly about joining government after the elections of 2002.
The 1999 Kosovo War divided the party internally. The Tweede Kamer parliamentary party supported the NATO intervention, while the Eerste Kamer parliamentary party was against the intervention. Several former PSP members within the Tweede Kamer parliamentary party began to openly speak out their doubts about the intervention. A compromise was found: the GreenLeft would support the intervention as long as it limited itself to military targets. Prominent members of the founding parties including Marcus Bakker en Joop Vogt left the party over this issue.
In 2001 the integrity of former MP Tara Singh Varma came into doubt: it was revealed that she had lied about her illness and that she had made promises to development organisations which she did not fulfill. In 2000 she had left parliament because as she claimed, she had only a few months to live before she would die of cancer. The TROS program "Opgelicht" (In English "Framed") revealed that she had lied and the she did not have cancer. Later she apologised on public television and claimed she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In the same year the parliamentary party supported the invasion of Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11 of the year. This invasion led to great upheaval within the party. Several former PSP members within the Tweede Kamer parliamentary party began to openly speak out their doubts about the intervention. Under pressure of internal opposition, led by former PSP members and the party's youth organization DWARS, the parliamentary party changed its position: the attacks should be cancelled.
The 2002 elections were characterized by change in the political climate. The rightwing political commentator Pim Fortuyn entered politics. He had anti-establishment message, combined with a call for restrictions of immigration. Although his critique was oriented at the second cabinet Kok, Rosenmöller was one of the only politicians who could muster some resistance against his message. Days before the election Fortuyn was killed by an animal rights-activist. Just before the elections Ab Harrewijn, GreenLeft MP and candidate also died. Before and after the elections serious threats were made against Rosenmöller, his wife and his children. These events caused considerable stress for Rosenmöller. The GreenLeft lost one seat in the election, although it had gained more votes than in the 1998 elections. Before the 2003 elections Rosenmöller left parliament, citing the on-going threats against his life and those of his family as the main reason. He was replaced as chair of the parliamentary party and top candidate by Femke Halsema. She was unable to keep ten seats and lost two.
In 2003 the GreenLeft almost unanimously turned against the Iraq War. It took part in the protests against the war, for instance by organising its party congress in Amsterdam at the day of the large demonstration, with an interval allowing its members to join the protest.
At the end of 2003 Halsema temporarily left parliament to give birth to her twins. During her absence Marijke Vos took her place as chair of the parliamentary party. When she returned to parliament, Halsema started a discussion about the principles of her party. She emphasized individual freedom, tolerance, selfrealization and emancipation. In one interview she called her party "the last liberal party of the Netherlands This led to considerable attention of media and other observers, which speculated about an ideological change. In 2005 the party's scientific bureau published the book "Vrijheid als Ideaal" ("Freedom as Ideal") in which prominent opinion-makers explored the new political space and the position of the left within that space. During the congress of February 2007 the party board was ordered to organize a party-wide discussion about the party's principles.
During the European Elections congress of 2004 the candidacy committee proposed that the chair of the GreenLeft delegation, Joost Lagendijk, should become the party's top candidate in those elections. A group of members, led by member of the Eerste Kamer Leo Platvoet submitted a motion "We want to chose". They wanted a serious choice for such an important office. The party's board announced a new electoral procedure. During the congress Kathalijne Buitenweg, also MEP and candidate, announced her candidacy for the position of top candidate. She narrowly won the elections from Lagendijk. This came as a great surprise to all. Especially for Buitenweg who had not written an acceptance speech and read out Lagendijk's.
In May 2005 MP Farah Karimi wrote a book in which discussed in detail how she had taken part in the Iranian Revolution, because this information was already known by the party board this did not lead to any upheaval. In November 2005 the party board asked member of the Eerste Kamer Sam Pormes to give up his seat. Continuing rumors about his involvement with guerrilla-training in Yemen in the 1970s and the 1977 train hijacking by Moluccan youth and allegations of welfare fraud were harmful for the party, or at least so the party board claimed. When Pormes refused to step up, the party board threatened to remove him from the party ranks. Pormes fought this decision. The party council of March 2006 sided with Pormes. Party chair Herman Meijer felt forced to give up his position. He was succeeded by Henk Nijhof who was chose by the party council in May 2006. In November 2006 Pormes left the Eerste Kamer, he was replaced by Goos Minderman.
In the 2006 Dutch municipal election the party stayed relatively stable losing only a few seats. After the elections the GreenLeft took part in 75 local executives, including Amsterdam where MP Marijke Vos became alderwoman.
In preparation of the 2006 elections the party held a congress in October. It elected Halsema, again the only candidate, as the party's top candidate. MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg and comedian Vincent Bijlo were last candidates. In the 2006 elections the party lost one seat.
In the subsequent cabinet formation an initial exploratory round among the CDA-SP-PvdA failed, Halsema announced that GreenLeft would not be involved in further discussion at that point in time, as the party lost, was too small, and had less in common with CDA than the SP had. Following this decision an internal debate about the political course and the leadership of Halsema erupted. The debate does just concern the series of lost elections and the decision not to participate in the formation talks, but also the elitist image of the party, the new liberal course, initiated by Halsema and the lack of party democracy. Since the last weeks of January 2007 several prominent party members have voiced their doubts including former leader Ina Brouwer senator Leo Platvoet and MEP Joost Lagendijk. In reaction to this the party board has set up a commission led by former MP and chair of the PPR Bram van Ojik. They will look into the lost elections. Another commission also chaired by Van Ojik was requested in by the congress of February 2006. It will look into the party's principles, organization and strategy.
In August 2008, GreenLeft parliamentarian Wijnand Duyvendak published a book in which he admitted to a burglary of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in order to steal plans for nuclear power plants. This led to his resignation on August 14, after media reported that the burglary also led to threats against civil servants. He was replaced by Jolande Sap.
In 1984 the common list of the PPR, PSP and CPN for the European election was called Green Progressive Accord (Groen Progressief Akkoord) at that time the PPR did not want to accept the word "left" in the name of the political combination. In 1989 the parties had entered in the European elections as the Rainbow (Regenboog), in reference to the Rainbow Group in the European Parliament in which had participated between 1984 and 1989
The party's principles reflect the ideological convergence between the four founding parties which came from different ideological traditions: the Political Party Radicals and the Evangelical People's Party, from a progressive Christian tradition; and the Pacifist Socialist Party and the Communist Party of the Netherlands from a left-socialist and communist tradition. Over the course of the 1970s and 1980s the parties had come to embrace environmentalism and feminism; they all favoured democratization of society and had opposed the creation of new nuclear plants and the placement of new nuclear weapons in the Netherlands.
Halsema, the current political leader of the party, has started a debate about the ideological course of GreenLeft. She emphasized the freedom loving tradition of the left and has chosen freedom as key value. Her course is called left-liberal by herself and observers, although Halsema herself claims that she does not want to force an ideological change. She claims that she places the GreenLeft in the "freedomloving tradition of the left", as the party's manifesto of principles did as well.
Following Isaiah Berlin Halsema distinguishes between positive and negative freedom. Negative freedom is according to Halsema the freedom citizens from government influence; she applies this concept especially to the multicultural society and the rechtsstaat, where the government should protect the rights of citizens and not limit them. Positive freedom is the emancipation of citizens from poverty and discrimination. Halsema wants to apply this concept to welfare state and the environment where government should take more action. According to Halsema the GreenLeft is undogmatic party, that has anarchist tendencies.
The GreenLeft seeks to offer an alternative for the welfare state reform initiated by the Cabinets Balkenende, which were in the eyes of the GreenLeft only oriented towards cutting costs and did not offer the worst off a chance for work, emancipation and participation. But, unlike the other opposition parties of the left, the party does not want to defend the current welfare state either which the party calls "powerless", because it merely offers the worst off a benefit, but not a perspective for work. The party wants to reform the welfare state so it will benefit "outsiders" those who have been excluded from the welfare state until now. This includes groups like migrants, women, people on a short term contract and people with disabilities. To help more people get a job the GreenLeft proposes a participationcontract. The unemployment benefit should be increased and limited to one year. In this period people would have to look for a job or education. If at the end of the year one should not succeed in finding a job, the government will offer one a job for the minimum wage. In order to create more employment they want to implement the green tax shift, which will lower taxes on lower paid labour. This would be compensated by higher taxes on pollution. In order to allow mothers with young children a chance to work, the party wants to make it easier for people to go on leave and make daycare free. In order to increase the perspectives for the underprivileged, it wants to invest in education, especially the VMBO. In order to ensure that migrants have a better chance for jobs it wants to deal firmly with discrimination, especially on the labour market. The party also wants to decrease income differences by making child benefits, government pensions and mortgage interest deductions dependent on ones income.
International cooperation is an important theme for the party. This includes development cooperation with underdeveloped countries. The GreenLeft wants to increase spending on development aid to 1,5% of the Gross National Product. It wants to open the European markets to goods from Third World countries, under conditions of fair trade. In order to ensure free and fair trade it wants to increase the democratize international economic organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank. The party also wants to canceling the debt of third world countries. The GreenLeft is positive about European integration, but critical about the current policies of the European Commission. It favoured the European Constitution, but after it was voted down in the 2005 referendum the GreenLeft advocated a new treaty which emphasized democracy and subsidiarity. The party is critical about the war against terrorism. It wants to strengthen the peacekeeping powers of the United Nations and reform the Dutch armed forces to a peace force. Finally the GreenLeft favours a liberal immigration policy, including a humane asylum seeker policy. It wants to empower victims of human trafficking by giving them a residence permit and it wants to abolish the income demands for marriage migration.
The GreenLeft wants to solve environmental problems, especially climate change, by stimulating durable alternatives. The party wants to use subsidies, taxes and emissions trading to stimulate alternative energy as an alternative for both fossil fuel and nuclear plants. It is opposed to drilling for natural gas in the Waddenzee and it wants to close all nuclear plants in the Netherlands. Moreover it wants to stimulate energy saving.It wants to invest in clean public transport, as an alternative for polluting private transport. Investments in public transport can be financed by not expanding highways and imposing a tolls on the use of roads (called "rekening rijden"). The party wants to stimulate organic farming through taxes and subsidies, as an alternative for industrial agriculture. Moreover the GreenLeft wants to codify animal rights in the Constitution.
The GreenLeft values individual freedom and the rule of law. The party wants to legalize soft drugs. It also wants to limit the use of AIVD-information in the court room. In the long term abolish the Dutch monarchy and instead become a republic.
It is part of the municipal executive of several larger cities notably Nijmegen, Utrecht, the Hague, Leiden, Rotterdam and Amsterdam, where former MP Marijke Vos is alderwoman. The GreenLeft has 70 members of burrough-level legislatives, 53 in Amsterdam and 17 in Rotterdam.
On the provincial level, the GreenLeft provides one Queen's Commissioner (out of 12) in North Holland. Queen's Commissioners appointed by the Minister of the Interior. The GreenLeft is part of the North Holland provincial executive. It holds 51 seats in provincial legislatives. In the following figure one can see the election results of the provincial election of 2007 per province. It shows the areas where the GreenLeft is strong, namely the urban areas like North Holland and Utrecht. The party is weaker in rural provinces like Friesland and Zeeland, but also strong in the rural Groningen, where the Communist Party of the Netherlands, one of the founding parties of the GreenLeft was very strong.
|Province||Votes (%)||Seats||Provincial Executives|
|Noord-Holland||9.7%||5||Bart Heller (prov. exec.)|
and Harry Borghouts (Queen's Comm.)
|Zeeland||4.9%||2||Marten Wiersma (prov. exec.)|
The voters of the GreenLeft have an eccentric position in their preferences for particular policies. Between 1989 and 2003 they were the most leftwing voters in the Netherlands, often a little more to the left than voters of the SP. These voters are in favour of smaller income differences, free choice for euthanasia, opening the borders for asylum seekers, the multicultural society and are firmly against building new nuclear plants.
Many well-known Dutch people have supported GreenLeft election campaigns. In 1989 choreographer Rudi van Dantzig and writer Astrid Roemer were last candidate. In 2006 comedian Vincent Bijlo shared this position with MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg.. Comedienne Sara Kroos, rapper Raymzter, astronaut Wubbo Ockels en soccer player Khalid Boulahrouz, business man Harry de Winter, journalist Anil Ramdas, actrice Kim van Kooten, commediene Sanne Wallis de Vries, comedian Herman Finkers, artist Herman van Veen, soccer player-columnist Jan Mulder and writer Geert Mak have also committed their name to (part of) the 2006 or 2007 GreenLeft election campaign. In 2004 singer Ellen ten Damme, poet Rutger Kopland and presenter Martijn Krabbé supported the European election campaign.
From 2007 onwards GroenLinks has adopted the idea of a "permanent campaign", which implies that campaign activities are deployed even when there is no immediate connection to an election. Permanent campaign activities are intended to create and maintain a base level of sympathy and knowledge about the party program. The introduction of guerrilla gardening in the Netherlands in 2008 was heavily supported by GreenLeft, as part of the permanent campaign.
For the months that the congress does not convene, a party council takes over its role. It consists out of 80 representatives of all the 250 municipal branches. The party board and the nationally elected representatives of the party are responsible to the party council. It has the right to fill vacancies in the board, make changes to the party constitution and takes care of the party's finances.
GreenLeft MPs face relatively strong regulation: MPs are not allowed to run for more than three terms and a relatively high percentage of the income of MPs is taxed by the party.
The GreenLeft has 250 branches in nearly all Dutch municipalities and each province. There are multiple municipalities in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, where every borough has its own branch and they have federal branches at the municipal level. Branches enjoy considerable independence, and take care of their own campaigns, lists of candidates and programs for elections. Provincial congresses meet at least every year and municipal congresses more often. The total number of members of GreenLeft has been steadily increasing over the last ten years and had 23,490 members in of January 2007.
There are several independent organizations which are linked to the GreenLeft: DWARS, the independent youth organization of the GreenLeft, De Linker Wang ("The Left Cheek"), platform for Religion and Politics, which is a progressive Christian platform, which was formed by former members of the Evangelical People's Party. and the Scientific Bureau GreenLeft, the independent political think tank which publishes "de Helling" (Dutch for "the Slope").
The GreenLeft is also active on the European and the global stage. It is a founding member of the European Green Party and the Global Greens. Its MEPs sit in the European Greens–European Free Alliance group. The GreenLeft cooperates with seven other Dutch parties in the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, an institute which supports democratic development in developing countries.