Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 8


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2023): -3.6 %.
Voter support for radical right in last elections: +11.8 %.
Populist or radical parties in government (February  2024): none
Number of radical or populist MEP:s (2019): 5/28

01 Speakers

Just like in Germany, Italy and several other Western European countries, Dutch politics during the first post-war decades was dominated by Christian democrats. Here, however, the Christian Democratic movement was split into three parties, two Protestant and one Catholic, which only in the 1970s came together and formed the CDA that still exists today. At least one Christian Democratic party was part of every Dutch government from 1918 to 1994. Sometimes together with liberals, sometimes with social democrats, almost always with large majorities and within the framework of a consensus-oriented political culture.


During the 1970s and 1980s, the Social Democrats (PvdA) were equally strong with the CDA, with the liberal VVD as a third force. But only in the 1994 election was a centre-left coalition able to push the CDA out of power. With the support of left-liberal D66 and VVD, the Social Democrats under the leadership of Wim Kok came to embody the liberalism of the 1990s: reduced taxes, deepened European integration, legalization of prostitution, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. And building a wall against the slowly growing right-wing populism.

In recent decades, the Netherlands has had one of Europe’s most fragmented party systems. This is largely due to an electoral system without a percentage threshold, meaning that around 0.8 percent of the votes are enough to gain a seat. In the 2021 election, 17 parties entered parliament, including three newcomers, reduced in 2023 to 15, including one new party.


One consequence of the fragmentation is increased difficulties in creating stable governments. After the 2017 election, 225 days passed until a new government was formed. The record was broken in 2021 with 299 days, even though in the end the same four parties continued to govern.


The party system of the Netherlands has been fertile ground for political entrepreneurs of all flavours, creating endless opportunities for small, often radical, parties to gain some influence, although it mostly has meant that left and right wing parties have had to lean towards the centre in order to form stable governing majorities.


The Dutch Communist Party (CPN) was formed in 1909 and achieved its greatest success immediately after World War II with ten percent in the 1946 election. However, support for the communist party gradually declined over the following decades as the legitimacy of their ideology weakened. In 1956, the CPN, isolated from the other parties, supported the Soviet invasion of Hungary. The student revolts of the 1960s gave a certain boost and the party increased its voter support in the early 1970s. Towards the end of the decade, they moved on to a more Eurocommunist line and tried to profile themselves on new issues such as gender equality. In the 1986 election, they were voted out of parliament and the party later joined the newly formed green left in Groen Links, where the party’s more progressives representatives had influence.

Several other minor communist parties were established from the 1960s and onward. Among those were the Socialist Party (SP), formed in 1971 by Maoists who disagreed with the Leninists on the role of intellectuals in the class struggle. The SP competed for the first time in parliamentary elections in 1977, but failed as it did throughout the 1980s. In 1991, they adopted a new program where they abandoned Maoism and instead profiled themselves as a democratic left-wing party, with a strong outsider approach, illustrated by the 1994 slogan “vote against, vote SP!”. From 1994 and well into the 2000s, the PvdA had a stated strategy to isolate and oppose the SP, by consistently voting against their proposals. The SP is often described as a left-wing populist party, although they came to moderate that position in the 2000s. In 2023 it campaigned on what political scienctist Cas Mudde described as an “old left” platform: “combining traditional leftwing economic positions, for example on healthcare, with demands for a temporary stop on migrant workers”, and attacks on identity politics.

SP Election poster from 1994

The protestant fundamentalist Reformed Political Party (SGP) is one of the historic parties in the Netherlands with roots in the 1910s. Originally established on a strong anti-catholic foundation, the party has been represented in parliament with a few mandates throughout the post-war period. While the SGP defends the separation between church and state, it ultimately wants the whole society to rest on the Bible and seeks to replace freedom of religion with freedom of conscience. The party does also want to re-introduce the death penalty and is strongly anti-feminist, not allowing female members until 2006. SGP has always been in opposition.


The Farmer’s Party (BP) was a populist and conservative rural party formed in the late 1950s. BP was represented in parliament between 1963-80. The party combined an economic right-wing policy with populist anti-establishment rhetoric of the same kind as Poujadism in France. The party split, among other things after it emerged that a senator had a Nazi background and had been a member of the SS.


The Center Party (CP) was a short-lived far-right party that won a seat in the parliamentary election in 1982. In the EP election in 1984, it won 2.5 percent of the vote. The party then split between moderates and radicals. The moderates finally broke away and formed the Center Democrats (CD) in 1984. The CP was dissolved in 1986 while the CD remained in parliament until 1998. They had their best results in the mid-1990s with three seats in parliament. They took a hard hit, however, before the 1994 election when a recording was leaked to the media in which a representative bragged about setting fire to a refugee facility.


Integration and migration issues came to dominate Dutch politics in the 21st century.


In 1999, Pim Fortuyn became leader of the newly founded Livable Netherlands (NL). The party achieved local success and also began to rise in national opinion with its criticism of immigration. Islam was, according to Fortuyn, an “achterlijk” (meaning both backward and retarded) religion. Fortuyn was expelled in 2001 after a controversy and instead formed his own party: List Pim Fortuyn (LPF). However, he remained leader for NL in Rotterdam, and won a third of the votes in municipal elections there in the spring of 2002. The LPF became a sensation in the 2002 election. They won 17 percent and immediately took a seat in the government. Fortuyn himself, however, was murdered a few days before the election. LN won two mandates in the 2002 election but disappeared in the election the following year. The LN was avowedly anti-establishment but not as strongly anti-immigration as the LPF.


The period in government became turbulent. First, LPF minister Philomena Bijlhout was forced to resign after it was revealed she had been part of a militia in Surinam. Then Hilbrand Nawijn, minister for migration and integration, revealed that he supported the death penalty. The short-lived government supported the American invasion of Iraq and abandoned the former government’s plans of forbidding mink farms. In snap elections a year later, LPF lost more than two-thirds of voter support, to disappear completely in the 2006 election. The long-term political influence of Fortuyn’s project should not be underestimated, however. The government that was formed after the 2003 elections (consisting of VVD, CDA and D66) began a radical transformation of Dutch migration and immigrant policy. Together with Denmark, in the early 2000s the Netherlands became a symbol for a tougher stance on immigration in Europe, with harsh rules for citizenship, family migration and asylum.

Pim Fortuyn

The most successful right-wing populist party in the Netherlands is the Party for Freedom (PVV), which was formed by Geert Wilders before the 2006 election. Wilders was previously a member of liberal conservative VVD, but left and Basically, the party took over the position of the LPF, with even more radical stances: strongly anti-immigration, anti-islam and anti-EU, with a particular focus on its opposition to Turkey becoming a member. The PVV became not only the Netherlands’ most successful right-wing populist ever but also one of the most famous representatives of this movement in Europe. Before the EP elections in 2014, it was Wilders who joined with Marine Le Pen at a high-profile press conference where they promised to crush the “monster in Brussels”.


His party, however, is a strange creation. Extremely centralised with the party leader being the only formal member of the party, it does not conduct normal election campaigns, but completely trusts Wilder’s media appearances. They achieved their first great success after the 2010 election, when they became the support party for Mark Rutte’s first government. The Christian Democrats refused to sit in a government together with the right-wing populists, but they could accept their confidence-and-supply. The collaboration broke up after less than two years, after PVV refused to accept the government’s proposed cuts in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Rutte later claimed that the cooperation with PVV was the greatest mistake he ever made.

Geert Wilders.

Since then, Wilders has remained in opposition and performed better in the EP elections until the quite unexpected success in 2023 when his party for the first time won an election.


The PVV was challenged in the mid-2010s by the Forum for Democracy (FvD), which under the leadership of Thierry Baudet at times had great success in the opinion polls. The party was formed in 2016, entered parliament with two seats the following year, to reach its best result in the 2021 election with five percent. The FvD was originally seen as a less radical alternative to the PVV but came to develop in an even more radical direction, with recurring scandals, not least concerning racist and homophobic statements from their representatives. In 2020, they compared the covid pandemic restrictions to the Nazi occupation during World War II. The FvD has also continued to be pro-Putin even after the outbreak of the war in 2022. They are one of the leading parties in Europe that propose the conspiracy theory of “the great replacement” and have argued for the creation of a counter-society, beyond the reach of the Dutch state.


As a result of the conflicts within the FvD, in 2021 a new party, Right Alternative 21 (JA21), was formed with the ambition to fill the void between the established right and right-wing populism. The party has so far had limited success.

The Farmer-Citizen-Movement (BBB) was established in 2019 and is an agrarian right-wing populist party. It plays on the elite vs the people opposition, claiming to defend “gewone Nederlanders” (ordinary men), with strong focus on agricultural issues and opposition to climate action. They have proposed the creation of a ministry for the countryside, to be situated at least 100 kilometres from the Hague. BBB had great success in the local elections in the spring of 2023 and was leading the national opinion polls for a few months over the summer, thereafter, however, they dropped quickly, losing votes to yet another new party: New Social Contract (NSC).


NSC was launched by Pieter Omtzigt, former CDA politician, who became famous while investigating the abuses of the tax authority. The party uses anti-establishment rhetoric, but bears few other similarities to right-wing populist parties.


Following the elections in 2023, negotiations on governing formation started between PVV, VVD, BBB and NSC. In February 2024 NSC withdrew due to disagreement on economic issues. In March 2024, Wilders announced that he would not be prime minister, in order to facilitate the forming of a coalition involving the PVV. PVV has continued to grow in the polls, reaching an unprecedented 34% in January.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 5/28


SGP holds one seat in the European Parliament, with its representative having been a member of the ECR group since 2014. Previously, the party was denied membership due to its stance on gender equality.


The Socialist Party was represented in the EP between 1999-2019, but lost representation in the last elections. They have always been a part of the GUE group.


In 2014, PVV won four seats. A year later they were able to found the group Europe of Nations and Freedom. In 2019 the PVV lost all representation in the EP.


The FvD won three seats in the 2019 election (and a fourth, after Brexit). Initially they joined the ECR group, but in 2020 three of their MEP:s left their own party, instead joining the JA21 party, while continuing in the ECR. The FvD then distanced themselves from ECR and joined the ID group. In 2022 their remaining MEP was expelled from the ID group because of pro-Putin messages on X.

SP summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: MODERATE
Democratic credibility: HIGH

PVV summary

Social issues: MODERATE
Democratic credibility: MEDIUM

BBB summary

Economics: CENTRE
Social issues: MODERATE
Democratic credibility: HIGH