Lijsttrekker (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈlɛistˌtrɛkər]; English: "list puller") is a Dutch term used in the Netherlands, Belgium and Suriname for a lead candidate in an election. The term refers to the same position as the German term Spitzenkandidat, also used in European politics.
In the Netherlands, which uses nationwide party lists for parliamentary elections, this person is almost always the party's political leader. After an election, this person usually leads the party's parliamentary group in the States-General, or serves in a senior position in the Cabinet if the person's party is part of the governing coalition. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands almost always comes from among the lijsttrekkers in the previous election.
In Belgium, national elections only feature provincial electoral lists since the 2012-2014 state reform; consequently there are usually six lijsttrekkers per party. Generally one of them is the party leader. Previously, some of the party leaders ran as lijsttrekker on the Senate list.
The term is also used for other elections, such as municipal elections.
During the election campaign these persons attract the most attention, for example in lijsttrekker debates, where the lijsttrekkers debate important issues with other lijsttrekkers on television. For example, in the 2003 elections, Wouter Bos was lijsttrekker for the social-democratic Labour Party; the recovery of the PvdA in that period is often credited to his personality. If, however, the party is unsuccessful in the elections, the lijsttrekker will often resign their post or leave politics entirely. This for instance happened to Thom de Graaf of Democrats 66, who instead of gaining seats as expected, lost a seat in the Dutch general election of 2003. Often parties also have a celebrity or well-known politician in the last place of the party list as lijstduwer ("list pusher").
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