The Dutch nine-to-twelve-party system is sometimes hard to understand for foreigners; especially when the small parties come into play. Therefore, just like in 2010, I’m running a mini-series that treats all eleven parties that stand a decent chance of winning seats. We’ll go from smallest to largest.
Today we’ll continue with slightly-less-orthodox protestant CU.
The CU is a less extreme SGP. It, too, consists of devout protestants hailing mainly from small Gereformeerde churches split off from the main branch, and sympathising conservative protestants.
Economically the CU is a lot to the left of the SGP, bringing it all the way to the centre; somewhere around D66’s position, probably. Of course the cultural differences between the CU’s christians and the agressively secular Democrats couldn’t be larger.
Unexpectedly, the CU has suffered from its stint in the Balkenende IV government; the first ever government participation of a small protestant party. Its 2010 campaign was lacklustre, and quickly after the elections party leader Rouvoet was exchanged for parliamentary leader Slob.
The CU is a merger between GPV and RPF; the 2010 profile has the details. The two “blood types” are still visible: Rouvoet is ex-RPF, Slob ex-GPV.
Unlike the SGP, the CU is trying to broaden its basis to evangelicals and maybe even catholics. The problem is that evangelicals don’t vote, and conservative catholics don’t seem to be ready to vote for a party that’s part and parcel of the old, anti-Papist anti-revolutionary block.
So what has the CU done recently? Nothing much, I’m afraid. The party is all-but invisible in the political struggles of the day. It tends to side with the opposition marginally more often than with government, and from time to time it supports Rutte when he’s shopping for extra support when Wilders refuses to vote for a certain proposal, but other than that there’s not much going on.
As far as I can see the CU is in a crisis, or at least a profound bout of introspection. Its government participation in Balkenende IV was based on its dual identity as a christian and a more-or-less left-wing party. The christian part is undisputed, but it could be that the party is wondering about the left-wing bit.
To put it simply: the CU hoped to attract left-wing christian voters to its banner, but it turned out there simply aren’t that many such voters. Most of them shifted leftward in the seventies, and although part of the protestant CDA leadership can still be seen as somewhat left-wing (in the sense of preferring the PvdA to the VVD), they don’t attract all that many voters; voters that the CU hoped to gain.
The polls don’t give much reason for optimism, either. The CU may win back its sixth seat, but on the other hand it may not. The hoped-for movement of evangelicals and catholics to the CU banner is not taking place, as far as anyone can see.
Still, while the CU had a hard time seat-wise, its chances for inclusion in the next coalition are actually fairly decent. Basically any sort of coalition without the PVV that needs a few extra seats may end up with the CU.
The CU is definitely a candidate for a centre-left coalition, which would fit the (old) party profile best. It’s also a candidate for a centre-right coalition. It may even be a candidate for a purple coalition, although one of Purple’s points is the removal of all christian influence from government, so this may be a lesser match.
The big question mark here is D66. In all coalition variants the Democrats will play a big role, and they are notoriously unhappy with any sort of christian influence. So far D66 and CU haven’t excluded each other yet, but I wouldn’t be unduly surprised if that happened. This would obviously be very bad for the CU, since the other parties will prefer D66 over it.
Still, not all is lost, and despite its lacklustre performance the CU may still end up in the new government.
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This is the political blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer, in Amsterdam. It’s a hobby blog where he follows Dutch politics for the benefit of those twelve foreigners that are interested in such matters, as well as his Dutch readers.
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