Alexander Pechtold (born 16 December 1965) is a Dutch politician of the Democrats 66 (D66) party. He is the Parliamentary leader of the D66 in the House of Representatives; he has been that party's Leader since 24 June 2006 and a Member of the House of Representatives since 30 November 2006.
Pechtold, an art historian by training, worked for Van Stockum's Auctions as a auctioneer from 1992 until 1997. He was elected Chairman of the D66 on 16 November 2002, and was selected as Mayor of Wageningen on 1 October 2003. In 2005 he was asked to become Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations in the Second Balkenende cabinet under Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, following the resignation of Thom de Graaf. Pechtold accepted the position, and resigned as Chairman and Mayor the same day that he took office as Minister on 31 March 2005. The D66 retracted its support for the Balkenende cabinet on 29 June 2006, and Pechtold resigned as Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations on 3 July 2006. He was elected the Leader of the D66 on 24 June 2006, after the party's leadership election of 2006. In the general election of 2006 Pechtold became Lijsttrekker (top candidate); the D66 lost three seats, and became an opposition party. In the election of 2010, when Pechtold was again Lijsttrekker, the D66 gained seven seats, for a total of ten, but remained an opposition party. In the following Dutch general election of 2012, with Pechtold still Lijsttrekker, the D66 gained another two seats but remained an opposition party, while in the Dutch general election of 2017 gained a further seven seats, for a total of nineteen.
Alexander Pechtold was born on 16 December 1965 in Delft in the Dutch province of South Holland. Pechtold and his elder brother Roland Pechtold grew up in the village of Rhoon. He went to a Lyceum in Rotterdam. Pechtold studied art history and archaeology with a specialization in 17th-century painting at the Leiden University, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts degree in 1996. During that time Pechtold obtained certification as an auctioneer, and worked for the Van Stockum's Veilingen during his studies.
Pechtold became a member of the Democrats 66 (D66) party in 1989. He was elected as a Municipal councillor in Leiden in 1994, and became a Alderman in 1996. On 16 November 2002 he was elected as Chairman of the D66. Pechtold was tasked with reforming the party after its disastrous results in the general election of 2002, and preparing for the upcoming election of 2003.
On 1 October 2003, Pechtold was selected as Mayor of Wageningen; he remained Chairman of the D66.
Thom de Graaf, the D66 Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations in the Second Balkenende cabinet, resigned on 23 March 2005 after the introduction of democratically elected mayors had been rejected in the Senate. The proposal was especially important; it had become a symbol of the government reform that the D66 had wanted since the party's creation. Pechtold was asked to succeed him as Minister. Pechtold resigned as Chairman and Mayor the same day that he took office as the new Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations, on 31 March 2005.
On 29 June 2006 the D66 retracted its support for the Balkenende cabinet. The next day, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende offered the resignation of the full cabinet to Queen Beatrix. Pechtold resigned as Minister for Government Reform and Kingdom Relations on 3 July 2006. His fellow D66 cabinet member Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, resigned on 7 July 2006.
Pechtold was elected the Leader of the D66 on 24 June 2006 in the leadership election of 2006, defeating Lousewies van der Laan, the party's Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives. Van der Laan had only a few months earlier succeeded Boris Dittrich, who had resigned as party leader and Parliamentary leader in the House of Representatives on 3 February 2006.
In 2007 the parliamentarian press chose Pechtold with 31% of the votes as the "Dutch Politician of the Year 2007".
For the Dutch general election of 2006 Pechtold became Lijsttrekker (top candidate) and the Democrats 66 lost three seats and became an opposition party. For the Dutch general election of 2010, Pechtold again as Lijsttrekker won ten seats but the Democrats 66 remained an opposition party. With the following Dutch general election of 2012, Pechtold again as Lijsttrekker won two seats with the Democrats 66 again remaining an opposition party.
During the Fourth Balkenende cabinet administration Pechtold served as opposition leader against the cabinet. After the Dutch elections of 2010, the D66 won seven-seats in the House of Representatives which reporters claimed was due to Pechtolds leadership during the Fourth Balkenende cabinet time. After the 2010 Dutch cabinet formation the D66 again remained in opposition. In 2012, Pechtold published Henk, Ingrid, & Alexander, which ostensibly aimed to break through the populism that has dominated Dutch politics in the previous decade--"Henk" and "Ingrid" are the generic names proposed by Geert Wilders and other Party for Freedom politicians to represent the average Dutch couple—by engaging everyday people in conversation. The book was panned in de Volkskrant as a "cheap PR-stunt without any value to it."
During a debate with Mark Rutte in 2010, Pechtold championed the cause of social liberalism, noting that the government “needs to offer services where fairness is more important than efficiency, such as education and healthcare," while accusing Rutte of pursuing policies that hurt the most vulnerable in Dutch society.
After the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, Pechtold explicitly voiced his support for economic expediency over ethical correctness by stating: "We are a small country, dependent on our exports, and unlike the United States, we cannot always react from our moral high grounds."