Political Party Analysis: Christian Democratic Appeal (Netherlands)

The second party we will cover in our analysis of Dutch politics is Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA).


Overview and History

Christian Democratic Appeal is a center to center-right Christian Democratic party (ideologically) that has participated in all but three governments since its foundation in 1977.  It was founded as a merger of the Catholic People’s Party, which served in every government since 1918, and two smaller parties (the Anti-Revolutionary Party and the Christian Historical Union).  Despite their (and their predecessors’) success in making it into the government, they experienced their worst electoral period since their founding, losing seats for three elections in a row (a total of 31 lost seats) between 2006 and 2012.  They have frequently worked with both the Labour Party and the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) when forming governments.  In 2012 they shifted from a mainly center-right platform to a “radical centrist” platform that we will discuss more in the policy section below.

Following the 2017 election, the CDA managed to recover some of its loses from previous elections and now serves as the second largest of the four parties in the governing coalition, consisting of the VVD, the CDA, Democrats 66 (D66), and the Christian Union (CU).

CDA Party Leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma leads his party through a difficult coalition.  (Photo from Fryslan Kiest)
 Recent Electoral History and Political Power

National Party Strength Ranking: 2nd

The CDA is the second strongest party in the Netherlands following the 2017 elections.  Details on their control in specific areas are below.

Prime Minister: The party’s last Prime Minister was Jan Peter Balkenende, who served from 2002 to 2010.

House of Representatives: In 2017 the party received 12.4% of the vote and 19 out of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives.  It finished in 3rd place, slightly behind the right-wing populist Party for Freedom (PVV).  This election showed that the worst might be over for them, though the future ahead may still be rocky.

Senate: The CDA won 12 out of the 75 seats in the Senate in the 2015 Senate Election, finishing in 2nd place.  Members are selected by the states, showing the CDA’s continued strength at the state level despite the poor national results in 2012.  It also shows that the party may be recovering from their downturn.

European Parliament: The CDA is a member of the European People’s Party parliamentary group in the European Parliament.  In the 2014 European Parliament elections, they finished in 2nd place, behind Democrats 66, with 15% of the vote, earning 5 out of the 26 seats allocated to the Netherlands (they gained an extra seat due to associations with an Orthodox Christian list within the country, as their 2nd place result only earned 4 seats on its own).  It was a disappointing result for the party, despite their 2nd place finish, since they dropped 4.8% from the previous European elections, but they did not lose any seats.

State Parliaments: The CDA holds 89 out of 570 seats throughout the state parliaments following the 2015 Regional Elections, which makes them the strongest party (tied with VVD) throughout the states.  They also gained 3 seats in the election, which, though a small number, is another positive sign for a comeback.  They also hold the most seats (or are tied for the most seats) in 5 out of 12 states.

Following the 2017 Election

The CDA managed to stop the bleeding in 2017 and reenter government, albeit as a junior coalition partner.  While they managed to gain some of their seats back, the CDA is still in an awkward position between the conservative liberals and the right-wing populists.  Their coalition partners (VVD, D66, and the CU) combine traditional partners with an uncomfortable one.  The CDA has worked with the VVD and CU traditionally, as conservative liberalism tends to be somewhat compatible with christian democracy and social conservatism in government, but the reliance on the social liberal D66 conflicts heavily with some of the CDA’s more traditional values and that may put strains on the coalition.

As of September of 2018, the CDA is taking slight losses according to the polls, with about 10% to 11% of the vote.

Economic and Fiscal Policy

The CDA combines market and mixed economic ideas in their platform.  While they advocate for reduced regulations on both companies and entrepreneurs, they also support price-controls for the agricultural sector.  They also call for an expansion of welfare for the disabled and a basic grant for undergrad students.  Their policies towards healthcare include abolishing profits for insurance providers and hospitals as well as expanding the basic level of care required in a plan.  For taxation, they support a “social” flat tax, which is a flat tax with a “solidarity fee” on the rich, “green” taxes, and a reduction in company and entrepreneur taxes.  They also call for a balanced budget to eventually decrease the debt and increased military spending (in order to reach NATO required minimums).

Liberty Rating*: C

Social and Foreign Policy

For social policy, the party is much more center-right to right-wing.  They oppose all drugs (even the smoking of tobacco) and call for the closure of all marijuana “coffee shops”.  For euthanasia they take a more moderate stance, advocating for the status-quo limited access policy.  When it comes to immigration they do support accepting refugees and immigrants but believe “integration is not optional”; immigrants must learn the language, integrate into the workforce, and accept Dutch culture.  That being said, they are still advocates for freedom of religion and are very anti-discrimination, including the banning of “hate speech”.  On abortion they hold a soft pro-life policy.  They also call for the banning of “anti-democratic organizations” and mandatory military service for all young citizens.  For foreign policy, they advocate increased integration into the European Union.

Liberty Rating*:  D

Political Spectrum**


Based on our liberty ratings for the CDA’s economic and social policy, they are a socially conservative and economically centrist Christian Democratic party.  The CDA holds both economically liberal and interventionist policies, causing the it to fall slightly inside the “Right” instead of the “Authoritarian” sector.  Socially, they fall just outside of the “Moderate” sector and into the “Right” sector due to their zero-tolerance stance on drugs, restrictive immigration policies, and calls for mandatory military service.

Read our analysis of other Dutch Political Parties:

*Disclaimer: The policy positions in this article have been evaluated using Wikipedia, the party’s own website, and various articles concerning Dutch politics.  We attempt to rate the parties based on all information that is available, but due to language barriers, lack of information, or simple mistake we may have missed something.  If you feel our liberty ratings or general evaluations are incorrect, please let us know on our contact page or nicely in the comments and we’ll try to fix it.  If you have questions on how these ratings are created, feel free to ask as well.

**This spectrum shows economic liberty on the right axis and social liberty on the left axis, so 100 on both axis is “pure” libertarianism and 0 on both axis is pure authoritarianism for example.

Author: Brendan Noble

I am a political consultant, data-analyst, Hillsdale College economics alumnus, and conservative-libertarian. Twitter: @Brendan_Noble

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