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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 03:21 GMT 04:21 UK
Who's who in Dutch politics
BBC News Online profiles the main parties that contested the Dutch general election, and their leaders.

Click on a link below:

  Christian Democratic Appeal
  List Pim Fortuyn
  Labour Party (PvdA)
  People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD)
  Democrats 66

Christian Democratic Appeal

The CDA, the moderately conservative Christian Democratic Party, is the main winner of the election, taking the most seats.

Jan Peter Balkenende
Jan Peter Balkenende: Former professor
Until relatively recently it had dominated the Dutch political scene, playing a part in every coalition government from 1918 to 1994.

It fell from grace for a while, largely due to a proposal to cut old age pensions.

However, the party has now risen back into favour.

Leader: Jan Peter Balkenende

Jan Peter Balkenende, 46, became leader of the Dutch Christian Democrats in October 2001 following the third leadership crisis in seven years.

Mr Balkenende, a former economics professor, is largely credited with having reversed the party's decline in the polls.

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List Pim Fortuyn

The party was created only in February 2002, after Pim Fortuyn had been sacked as leader of the fringe Livable Netherlands party.

Woman holds picture of Pim Fortuyn
Pim Fortuyn: His party has made major gains
He went on to win about one-third of the votes after standing as a candidate in municipal elections in Rotterdam, the country's second largest city.

The party has made major gains in this election.

As well as its much publicised anti-immigration stance, it wants to integrate existing immigrants, re-erect Dutch border controls, dramatically reduce the number of Dutch civil servants, and reduce the level of Dutch contributions to the European Union.

Murdered leader: Pim Fortuyn

Pim Fortuyn, 54, was a flamboyant character whose anti-immigration views attracted significant support.

Since his murder, the party number two has assumed a more public role. He is Joao Valera - a 27-year-old businessman and immigrant from the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa.

But according to some reports Mr Valera was given this position partly to help Mr Fortuyn fend off accusations of racism, and it is not clear whether he will go on to become permanent leader.

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Labour Party (PvdA)

The Dutch Labour Party is a moderate, social democratic party.

Recent party history follows similar lines to the British Labour party - a period of unpopularity throughout the 1970s and '80s followed by electoral success in the '90s, with a move to the centre ground under Wim Kok.

Mr Kok came to power in 1994 leading a so-called "purple coalition" of his Labour party, the liberal VVD party, and the reformist party Democrats 66.

Ad Melkert
Ad Melkert: Low on charisma
The coalition was re-elected in 1998, with the Labour Party strengthening its position.

Mr Kok's time in government has been relatively trouble-free, but the government resigned in April following a critical report on its role in the Srebenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995.

The party concentrated its election fight on social issues and public services.

Leader: Ad Melkert

After the results were announced, Labour leader Ad Melkert said he would resign as parliamentary leader.

He became leader after Mr Kok announced his intention to step down.

A former left-wing radical, he typifies the shift his party has made from leftist social ideals to a preoccupation with keeping a tight rein on the economy and welfare spending.

He faced criticism from members of his own party for his inability to connect with the voters. He has been described as having the "charisma of a refrigerator".

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People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD)

The VVD was founded in 1948 and attracted a membership of liberal conservatives from the upper-middle and professional classes.

Its support base is broader now, although its core support is still among the middle class. It was part of the governing "purple" coalition from 1994 until this election.

In the 1998 general election, it became the second largest party in the Netherlands with 25% of the vote.

The party claims credit for economic liberalisation policies including decentralisation and tax cuts.

Leader: Hans Dijkstal

Hans Dijkstal, 59, has been leader of the VVD party since 1998, following four years as interior minister.

Hans Dijkstal
Hans Dijkstal: The politician people want to holiday with
Mr Dijkstal is admired for his ability to broker compromises in the governing coalition.

He is widely liked and was picked by the readers of the mass-circulation daily De Telegraaf as the politician they would most like to go on holiday with.

But others find him too relaxed, and his reputation was damaged by pre-election television debates with the late Pim Fortuyn, where Mr Fortuyn gained the upper hand.

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Democrats 66

The third party in the old coalition government was Democrats 66, a liberal and reformist grouping.

Thom de Graaf
Thom de Graaf: Measured and rational
The party was founded in 1966 from dissident liberals, social democrats and non-partisans who urged the necessity of radical reforms.

The party wants constitutional reform including a directly elected prime minister, elected mayors and stronger bonds between voters and members of parliament.

1994 was a high point for D66, when it gained 15.5% of the vote and entered into the coalition. But since then its support has waned and the party itself admits that it has a fickle electorate with only a few faithful supporters.

Leader: Thom de Graaf

Thom de Graaf, aged 44, is widely respected as a measured and rational politician, but has so far failed to reverse his party's decline in popularity.

D66 was responsible for launching the legalisation of gay marriage, but despite its radical thinking has been unable to capture the voters' imagination.

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