Party profile — CDA

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 the former natural leadership party CDA.


Full name
Christen-Democratisch Appèl
Christian-Democratic Appeal
Party leader
Sybrand van Haersma Buma, since 2012
In parliament since
1977; predecessors since 1874
Catch-all party
Current seats

The CDA and its predecessor parties ruled the country from 1918 to 1994. This, its detractors never fail to point out, is slightly longer than the CPSU ruled the Soviet Union.

Those days seem gone. In 1994 the CDA was ousted from power by a hitherto-unthinkable coalition of left-wing PvdA and right-wing VVD, who formed the Purple coalition with D66. In 2002 the CDA returned to the centre of power under new leader Balkenende — not by any positive virtue but because it was available while being neither Purple nor Fortuyn.

In the Balkenende years the CDA once again combined now with VVD, then with PvdA, but in 2010 it was clear Balkenende had reached his Best-Before date. In addition, PvdA party leader Bos had been extremely effective in tarring CDA crown prince Verhagen during the fall of the Balkenende IV government, which caused a profound leadership crisis in the CDA. That crisis was only solved when parliamentary leader Van Haersma Buma was elected party leader last June.

The 2010 profile contains more information about its history and former electoral position.

What now?

So in 2010 the CDA was in a leadership crisis. Added to this was a crisis about the political strategy. Verhagen, not officially party leader but very influential, led the CDA wing that wanted a coalition with Wilders’s PVV. In the end the CDA agreed, but nearly one-third of the members who came to a special party congress in 2010, voted against.

The left wing of the party grudgingly supported the right-wing government, but was never happy with it. When Wilders quit the consultations about the austerity budget and thus caused the fall of government, the left wing felt liberated and basically took over the party. Not that the right-wingers were persecuted, but it became clear that the CDA would not tolerate another right-wing coalition.

New party leader Buma is doing ... not bad. He’s a very typical CDA man, a good debater, and knows how to remain vague enough not to anger any possible coalition partner. He may stabilise the party and even restrict the seat loss somehwat.

Still, the CDA is in a profound crisis. It may have lost its place in the centre of Dutch politics; partly because of its disastrous seat loss, partly because the party has moved so much to the right.


Despite being slated to lose roughly one-third of its seats, the CDA will likely be part of the next coalition, because it is available for both the left and the right. Only the Purple coalition between PvdA and VVD would exclude the CDA, but right now that coalition is not likely. And the CDA will not form a coalition with Wilders again.

I expect the CDA to veer slightly leftwards in the negotiations because it has to correct the huge rightward lurch of the last government. Thus I think the CDA is slightly more willing to reinforce a left-wing than a right-wing coalition. Still, most party members honestly prefer the VVD over the PvdA, and the CDA is moderate in all things, also in its leftward lurches. So centre-right it might be after all, if enough seats are available.

<— Polls, polls, polls | Party profile — PVV —>

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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