Last week NRC ran a story about how Maxime Verhagen, economics minister and de-facto CDA leader, almost never showed up for crucial meetings in his party. This story is emblematic of the severe trouble the CDA is in right now.
(Unfortunately NRC has decided that a digital archive of news stories is not necessary, even though this particular story did appear online. Therefore I can’t link to it.)
So what exactly are the problems the CDA is facing? First of all it sank like a stone in the polls. Both pollsters now agree that it’s the sixth party in the country, after VVD, PVV, SP, PvdA, and D66, with 11 or 13 seats. That’s not good for the “natural” party of government.
Second, a year and a half after the disastrous 2010 elections (41 to 21 seats) it still doesn’t have a party leader. Former prime minister Balkenende resigned after the elections, and although Verhagen took the lead in the coalition negotiations that led to the Rutte government, he was never officially instated as party leader.
Even back in 2009 it was clear that Verhagen was the second man in the CDA after prime minister Balkenende, and his succession to the party leadership was widely expected. He was, however, tarred quite efficiently by then-PvdA leader Bos during the fall of Balkenende’s government, and his reputation has not recovered. On the other hand, he’s (apparently) too powerful to be swept aside entirely.
Who are his competitors for the party leadership?
Occasionally the media mention a dark-horse candidate, and I’ll continue to monitor that, but right now I’d say the future CDA leader is Verhagen, Van Haersma Buma, De Jager, or Eurlings.
Verhagen and Eurlings are catholic; De Jager and Van Haersma Buma protestant. Last year it was clear that protestant Balkenende would have to be succeeded by a catholic, but that’s getting less clear now. One might argue the catholics have had their chance and lost it.
Still, Verhagen and Eurlings both come from the southern province of Limburg, just as Geert Wilders. Even more to the point: the CDA lost heavily to Wilders’s PVV in Limburg, to the extent that the PVV became the largest party. From the perspective of winning back southern conservative voters, electing a catholic Limburger as party leader makes a lot of sense.
So nothing’s decided yet, the CDA is falling and falling in the polls, and something ought to be done. Still, there’s no urgent reason to do anything now. The Rutte government still holds on, and elections are expected to take place only in 2015. Then why not wait a little while longer?
Verhagen’s refusal to appear in internal party meetings is a bad sign for him: apparently he doesn’t feel he has much in common with the party leadership, and they will meanwhile have gotten very tired of Verhagen’s absence.
To be continued.
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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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