DENK (political party)

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DENK (Dutch pronunciation: [dɛŋk]; Dutch for "think" and Turkish for "equal" or "balanced"[8]) is a political party in the Netherlands, founded on a minority rights platform.[23] It is legally registered as "Politieke Beweging Denk" (Political Movement Denk).[24]

LeaderFarid Azarkan
ChairmanEjder Köse[1]
Leader in the House
of Representatives
Farid Azarkan
FoundersTunahan Kuzu
Selçuk Öztürk
Founded9 February 2015
Split fromLabour Party
HeadquartersSchiekade 10,
Youth wingJongerenbeweging Oppositie[2]
Think tankWetenschappelijk Instituut Statera[3]
Membership (2022)Increase 3,710[4]
Political positionCentre-left[22]
Colours  Turquoise
0 / 75
House of Representatives
3 / 150
Provincial councils
4 / 570
European Parliament
0 / 29

The party was founded by Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk, two Turkish Dutch members of the House of Representatives, after leaving the Labour Party on 13 November 2014. Upon winning three seats at the 2017 election, DENK became the first migrant-founded party to gain seats in the Dutch national parliament.[25]

Although the party has been colloquially described as a "Muslim political party", DENK "does not promote Muslim candidates as do most similar political parties in Europe".[20] Indeed, during DENK's second State elections in 2021, Stephan van Baarle, an agnostic,[26] also became a DENK member of the House of Representatives. The party BIJ1 was created by Sylvana Simons when she left DENK in 2016, and the two parties overlap substantially on minority rights issues but are divergent on cultural liberal aspects.


DENK was founded by Tunahan Kuzu and Selçuk Öztürk after leaving the Labour Party on 13 November 2014. Their resignations were prompted by proposals by Deputy Prime Minister and party leader Lodewijk Asscher that a number of Turkish Islamist organisations be monitored for interfering with the integration of Dutch citizens of Muslim origin.[27] This came after an internal party debate sparked by a report incorrectly stating that 90% of young Turkish Dutch supported ISIS.[28][29] On 9 February 2015, they gave their parliamentary group the name DENK and published a political manifesto for the establishment of a movement for migrants and a "tolerant and solidary society" which, among other things, calls for a "racism registry".

The results from the 2017 election ensured that Kuzu and Öztürk would remain in parliament together with new arrival Farid Azarkan, who is the current party leader.


The movement drew up a political manifesto in February 2015, from which the political party DENK emerged in November 2016.[30][31][non-primary source needed]

The DENK programme argues for the following five points:

  • a tolerant society in which we accept each other.
  • a caring society in which we look out for each other.
  • a learning society in which we utilize everyone's talents.
  • a sustainable society where we have to think about our environment.
  • a just society, promoting international justice.

The movement wants to establish a monument in memory of labour, and they want knowledge of migration history as a key target in education. They propose that the term "integration" should be replaced by the word "acceptance". The movement would abolish the term "immigrant". It notes that people with a non-western background are less likely to find a job or internship and often have negative experiences with law enforcement. The manifesto states that racism in the Netherlands is structural and institutional in nature and therefore wants a so-called "racism registry" to be set up, in which manifestations of racism are registered.

The movement proposes that in education, diversity in the classroom is commensurate with the diversity of the class (including the teacher). The movement has a policy that in every school in the Netherlands, both in primary and secondary education, study of Chinese, Arabic, and Turkish must be introduced as optional subjects. According to the movement, education in these languages will be useful for the country's economy and international relations. According to the manifesto, imams should not only be appointed to mosques, but also in health care, prisons and the armed forces.

DENK's view is that the United Nations and its Security Council need fundamental reform and that the European Union should pursue an independent foreign policy. The movement wants to tackle Islamic extremism by tackling its root causes, which, according to the party, consist of hopelessness, social exclusion, and injustice. On the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the party advocates that Europe strengthen the international position of Palestine and that the Netherlands recognises the State of Palestine.

The party carries the program advanced by the International Institute for Scientific Research, based in The Hague, with the purpose of decolonization.[20] Among its policies, DENK seeks to: establish a "racism register" to track and condemn the use of hate speech against religion; build a Dutch slavery museum; abolish the black character Zwarte Piet ("Black Pete"); and ban the use of the Dutch word "Allochtoon" which it considers as derogatory towards ethnic minorities in the Netherlands.[20]


The party mainly attracts support from ethnic minorities in the Netherlands, especially from the Turkish and Moroccan population. Correspondingly the support for DENK is the strongest in cities and towns with a significant migrant population, especially in the larger cities such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In these cities the support for the party concentrates in the majority-minority districts, such as Nieuw-West in Amsterdam or Kanaleneiland in Utrecht, gaining between 30 and 40% of the votes in those districts.[32]


Support for the AKPEdit

The two leaders and founders of the party have been criticised for being "closely linked to the AKP" of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and "do not criticize Erdogan and Turkish government policies". Some critics in the Dutch media have called the party the "long arm of Erdoğan" for its perceived support of the party line of the Turkish government and the ruling AK Party.[8][33][16][34] The party was the sole party in the Netherlands that did not call for the release of a Turkish-Dutch blogger who was arrested for a tweet about Erdoğan.[16] The party has also been heavily criticised for refusing to distance itself from the purges in Turkey since 2016.[8] However, as DENK's leader, Kuzu distanced himself from comments of Erdoğan in which the Turkish president called Dutch authorities "Nazi remnants and fascists",[35][36] labelling those comments "incorrect" and "very troublesome".[37]

The Diyanet, a Turkish governmental unit, has allowed DENK to promote itself in Diyanet-controlled Dutch mosques. There are 146 such mosques as of 2018.[34]

The party's program for the 2017 general election, in the context of the Armenian genocide, mourns both the Turkish and the Armenian sides, while calling for an "independent international investigation". DENK claims that there is no consensus regarding the scale and cause of the tragedy, and calls for "reason and unification". Within that framework, the party does not use the term genocide.[31][non-primary source needed] DENK was the sole party which voted against a bill recognising the Armenian Genocide.[17]

Targeting Turkish Dutch politiciansEdit

In March 2020, DENK was condemned by fellow members of the House of Representatives for releasing videos of MPs of Turkish descent from other parties, in which they are portrayed, for example, as "traitors" to the Turkish-Dutch community.[38]

Electoral resultsEdit

House of RepresentativesEdit

Election Lijsttrekker Votes % Seats +/– Government
2017 Tunahan Kuzu 216,147 2.1 (#12)
3 / 150
New Opposition
2021 Farid Azarkan 211,053 2.0 (#14)
3 / 150

European ParliamentEdit

Election Lijsttrekker Votes % Seats +/–
2019 Ayhan Tonça 60,669 1.1 (#13)
0 / 26
0 / 29


2019 provincial elections
Provincial Votes % Seats
Drenthe 579 0.25%
0 / 41
Flevoland 3,326 2.09%
1 / 41
Friesland 493 0.17%
0 / 43
Gelderland 11,298 1.21%
0 / 55
Groningen 1,081 0.42%
0 / 43
Limburg 4,322 0.95%
0 / 47
North Brabant 12,415 1.23%
0 / 55
North Holland 28,035 2.4%
1 / 55
Overijssel 6,495 1.24%
0 / 47
South Holland 39,800 2.73%
1 / 55
Utrecht 13,095 2.13%
1 / 49
Zeeland 814 0.48%
0 / 39
Total 121,753 1,67%
4 / 570
2018 municipal elections
Municipality Votes % Seats
Alkmaar 647 1,4%
0 / 39
Amersfoort 2,390 3,4%
1 / 39
Amsterdam 23,138 6,7%
3 / 45
Arnhem 3,147 5,2%
2 / 39
Deventer 2,026 4,6%
1 / 37
Eindhoven 2,864 3,5%
1 / 45
Enschede 2,306 3,7%
1 / 39
Lelystad 958 3,7%
1 / 35
Roermond 835 3,3%
1 / 31
Rotterdam 16,955 7,4%
4 / 45
Schiedam 3,260 11,7%
4 / 35
Utrecht 7,662 4,9%
2 / 45
Veenendaal 1,243 4,0%
1 / 33
Zaanstad 3,401 5,5%
2 / 39
Total 70,832 1,0%
24 / 7,886

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Website DENK,
  2. ^ "Jongerenbeweging OPPOSITIE". Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  3. ^ "DENK". Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  4. ^ "DENK". Documentatiecentrum Nederlandse Politieke Partijen (in Dutch). Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  5. ^ "DENK wil burger heropvoeden. Waar zagen we dat eerder? - EW". (in Dutch). 16 November 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2020.
  6. ^ "The Dutch election suggests a new kind of identity politics". The Economist. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  7. ^ "A Pro-Immigrant Party Rises in the Netherlands". The New York Times. 29 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d "6 most eyecatching fringe parties in the Dutch election". Politico. 3 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Ethnic minorities desert Labour, turn to Denk ahead of March vote". Dutch News. 6 February 2017.
  10. ^ a b "De DENK-stemmer: progressief én conservatief?". 22 January 2018.
  11. ^ "Na DENK wil Simons zich inzetten voor homorechten - EW". 27 December 2016.
  12. ^ Siegal, Nina (29 July 2016). "A Pro-Immigrant Party Rises in the Netherlands". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  13. ^ "DENK: The Long Needed Multicultural Party?". 25 July 2016. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  14. ^ Wiegman, Marcel (24 March 2018). "Denk vindt de Turkse stem in Amsterdam". Het Parool (in Dutch).
  15. ^ "Een gelukkige Turk is niet blij met Denk". RTL Nieuws (in Dutch). 23 March 2018.
  16. ^ a b c "How will Turkish Germans vote in the country's upcoming election?". Deutsche Welle. 24 August 2017.
  17. ^ a b "Tweede Kamer erkent Armeense genocide". (in Dutch). Algemeen Dagblad. Retrieved 20 May 2020.
  18. ^ "Denk: trouwe achterban, crisis of niet". NRC.
  19. ^ "Nieuwe Denk-leider Azarkan mikt op zes zetels en wil meebesturen". 26 September 2020.
  20. ^ a b c d Spektorowski, Alberto; Elfersy, Daphna (2020), From Multiculturalism to Democratic Discrimination: The Challenge of Islam and the Re-emergence of Europe's Nationalism, University of Michigan Press, p. 204, ISBN 9780472132164
  21. ^ "Ethnic outbidding and the emergence of DENK in the Netherlands". 20 March 2019. hdl:1887/68915 – via {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "Tweede Kamer Verkiezingen: Achter de schermen bij het Kieskompas". 5 March 2021.
  23. ^ Siegal, Nina (29 July 2016). "A Pro-Immigrant Party Rises in the Netherlands". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  24. ^ Kiesraad (22 April 2016). "Register - Verkiezingen -". (in Dutch). Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  25. ^ Otjesa, Simon; Krouwel, André (2018), "Why do newcomers vote for a newcomer? Support for an immigrant party", Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Routledge, 45 (7): 1
  26. ^ Van Baarle, Stephan (17 February 2018). "Integratie is een kunstmatige term" [Integration is an artificial term]. (Interview) (in Dutch). Interviewed by Elsje Jorritsma and Eppo König. Retrieved 5 April 2021.
  27. ^ "Dutch party expels two Turkish-origin lawmakers - World News". Hürriyet Daily News.
  28. ^ "The Netherlands' migrant parties: Representing the new Europeans -". - Dialogue with the Islamic World.
  29. ^ "Onderzoek over IS-steun Turkse jongeren deugde niet". Volkskrant. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  30. ^ "Een Nieuke Politieke Beweging" (PDF). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  31. ^ a b "Denkend Aan Nederland" (PDF). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  32. ^ "Uitslagenkaart Tweede Kamerverkiezingen 2017 per stembureau". (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  33. ^ "Turkse coup in Den Haag". RTL Nieuws (in Dutch). 3 April 2020. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  34. ^ a b Öztürk, Ahmet Erdi; Sözeri, Semiha (2018). "Diyanet as a Turkish Foreign Policy Tool: Evidence from the Netherlands and Bulgaria". Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. 11 (3): 3, 12–13, 15. doi:10.1017/S175504831700075X. S2CID 148657630. Archived from the original on 17 April 2019.
  35. ^ "Turkey's Erdogan calls Dutch authorities 'Nazi remnants'". BBC News. 11 March 2017. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  36. ^ Van Outeren, Emilie (17 March 2017). "Kuzu neemt een beetje afstand". NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). p. 10. Retrieved 20 March 2021.
  37. ^ "Denk-voorman Kuzu noemt uitspraken Erdogan 'onjuist'". (in Dutch). ANP/ 24 March 2017.
  38. ^ van der Aa, Edwin (13 March 2020). "Kamer veroordeelt Denk om intimiderende filmpjes". Algemeen Dagblad (in Dutch). Retrieved 10 June 2020.

External linksEdit