Elections in the Netherlands take place tomorrow and the Christian Democratic Appeal, once the largest party in Dutch politics, is hoping to make a comeback to the forefront after disappointing election results in 2012. Polls suggest they could almost double their number of seats in the House of Representatives, but what do they stand for? Read on to find out…
Christian Democratic Appeal (Christen-Democratisch Appèl – CDA) started life as a political alliance in 1973 between three Christian democrat parties: the Catholic People’s Party, Anti-Revolutionary Party and the Christian Historical Union. These three parties had once dominated Dutch politics; from 1918 to 1967, the three parties had a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate (the Dutch upper house). However, their support began to collapse as Dutch society became more secular. Elections in 1972 saw them drop to a total of 32% of the vote between them, and so an alliance was formed one year later. The three parties united under the CDA umbrella in 1980. Since its formation, the CDA have been in government coalitions for all but 13 years.
The party ran into problems in the early 1990s; conflict between then-Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers and Elco Brinkman, the party’s ‘lijsttrekker’ (top candidate on a party list), lack of support for the party’s reforms to old age pensions and a perceived arrogance of the party all resulted in the CDA losing 20 seats and a third of its support.
However, the CDA regained support of many in elections in 2002. Following the assassination of far-right politician Pim Fortuyn just nine days before voters went to the polls, many turned to the CDA in the hope that they may bring stability.
Having previously formed coalitions with centre-right parties, the CDA took a different approach in 2006, teaming up with the Labour Party as well as Christian Union. This administration, the most recent for the CDA, saw increased government spending fuelled by higher taxes.
In the last two elections, the party has been punished at the ballot box. In 2010, the CDA lost a staggering 20 seats, coming fourth, and in the most recent elections, the party won less than 9% of the vote with only 13 seats – their worst election performance to date.
The party is currently lead by Sybrand van Haersma Buma, a Cambridge graduate, after being elected in a leadership contest in May 2012.
As its name suggests, the party takes inspiration from Christian values and the Bible itself. However, the party also has members of parliament from different faiths. The CDA is a centrist party and believes in ‘sphere sovereignty’. This is a belief that organisations such as the state, the market, churches and unions should all work together for the common good. Whilst the party exhibits some left-leaning policies, such as being strongly pro-Europe and supporting environmental protections, it shows right-wing ideology in other areas, which include demanding the limitation of abortion and euthanasia, and ending the Netherlands’ tolerance of prostitution and the use of soft drugs.
The CDA has a 25 point plan for the next four years, which includes the following points:
- Making the glorification of violence a criminal offence
- ‘Where our freedoms are abused to spread anti-democratic beliefs or glorify terrorist violence, the government should establish a clear boundary’
- Assign €100 million for a new care allowance for those looking after sick relatives
- Abolish the ‘feudal’ student loan system and replace with a basic grant for undergraduate students
- Reduce the burden of healthcare costs by reducing the compulsory own-risk excess* from €385 to €280
- *NB – Dutch people currently pay the first €385 of any medical costs, excluding visits to their GP
- Invest more in security and defense
- ‘The world around us has become rapidly more dangerous in recent years’
- Simplify the tax system to ensure work pays again, that entrepreneurship is rewarded and savings are encouraged rather than being in debt
- Crack down on soft drug use, by continuing to close the number of coffee shops, particularly those in close proximity to schools
- ‘In the long term, we want to close all coffee shops’
- ‘Soft drugs are harmful to health and cause social nuisance. No parent hopes or wants their child smoking dope. In addition, criminals make billions from the production of soft drugs.’
- Oppose plans by other parties to abolish the ‘Sunday law’ and allow all shops to be open every Sunday
- ‘Sunday is no ordinary day like Monday or Tuesday… and it should remain so.’
- Introduce wider range of language and integration courses to ensure those who move to the Netherlands become naturalised and find a prominent place in society
- Provide temporary shelter to refugees who are truly in need
WHAT DO THE POLLS SAY?
Seat projections for the CDA suggest the party could double the number of seats it has in the House of Representatives – with the most recent polls suggesting they could win 21 seats (compared with the 13 they won in 2012). Whilst the exact number of seats the party could win tomorrow has varied over time, it is almost certain that the CDA will make gains in this year’s election.