Wim Kok started his career in 1961 at the socialist trade union of the Netherlands. He was chairman from 1973 until 1986.
In 1986 he succeeded Joop den Uyl as leader of the social democratic party Partij van de Arbeid. From 1989 until 1994 he was minister of financial affairs in a cabinet with the christian democratic party Christen Democratisch Appèl and the progressive liberal party D66.
In 1994 he became prime minister in a cabinet with the liberal party Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie and D66. After the elections in 1998 he led a second government with the same partners. In August 2001 he announced he would step down after the elections in May 2002.