Christian Democratic Appeal

Christian Democratic Appeal
Christen-Democratisch Appèl
Abbreviation CDA
Leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma[1]
Chairman Ruth Peetoom
Honorary chairman Piet Steenkamp
Leader in the Senate Elco Brinkman
Leader in the House of Representatives Sybrand van Haersma Buma
Leader in the European Parliament Esther de Lange
Founded 23 June 1973
(as Political alliance)
11 October 1980
(as Unitary Party)
Merger of ARP, CHU and KVP
Headquarters Partijbureau CDA
Buitenom 18 The Hague
Youth wing Christian Democratic Youth Appeal
Thinktank Wetenschappelijk bureau CDA
Ideology Christian democracy[2]
Political position Centre[3][4][5][6]
to Centre-right[7][8]
European affiliation European People's Party
International affiliation Centrist Democrat International
European Parliament group European People's Party
Colours Green
12 / 75
House of Representatives
13 / 150
King's Commissioners
4 / 12
89 / 570
European Parliament
5 / 26

The Christian Democratic Appeal (Dutch: Christen-Democratisch Appèl, pronounced [krɪstə(n)deːmoːkraːtis ɑˈpɛl]; CDA) is a Christian-democratic[2][9][10][11] political party in the Netherlands founded in 1977, which participated in all but three governments since then. It was a merger from the Catholic People's Party (which through its antecedents had been part of every government since 1918), the Anti-Revolutionary Party and the Christian Historical Union.

The party suffered severe losses in the 2010 elections, losing half of its seats to fall to fourth place in the House of Representatives. From 2010 to 2012 consequently, the CDA was a junior coalition partner in a right-wing minority cabinet with the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), supported in parliament by the Party for Freedom (PVV). The CDA had 6 ministers in the first Rutte cabinet along with the 6 VVD cabinet ministers. Some senior offices were held. Sybrand van Haersma Buma leads the CDA in the House of Representatives and has been the new Party leader since May 18, 2012.

Subsequently the CDA again lost a considerable number of seats in the 2012 elections, dropping to fifth place.


History before 1977

Since 1880 the sizeable Catholic and Protestant parties had worked together in the so-called Coalitie. They shared a common interest in public funding of religious schools. In 1888 they formed the first Christian-democratic government, led by the Anti-Revolutionary Æneas Baron Mackay. The cooperation was not without problems and in 1894 the more anti-papist and aristocratic conservatives left the Protestant Anti Revolutionary Party, to found the Christian Historical Union. The main issues dividing Protestants and Catholics was the position of the Dutch Representation at the Holy See and the future of the Dutch Indies.

Piet Steenkamp, Founder and Chairman from 1973 until 1980.
Piet Bukman, Chairman from 1980 until 1986.

From 1918 to 1967, the three Christian Democratic parties had a majority in both houses of the States General, and at least two of them were included in every cabinet. After the war the three Christian-democratic parties were the Catholic People's Party (KVP), the Protestant Anti Revolutionary Party (ARP), and the Protestant Christian Historical Union (CHU). The KVP and its antecedent, the Roman Catholic State Party, had been in government without interruption since 1918.

In the sixties, the Dutch society became more secularized and the pillars faded, and voters began to move away from the three Christian-democratic parties. In 1963 the three parties held 51% of the vote, whilst in 1972 they held only 32%. This decline forced the three parties to work closer together. In 1967 the Group of Eighteen was formed: it was a think-tank of six prominent politicians per party that planned the future cooperation of the three parties. In 1968 the three political leaders of the parties (Norbert Schmelzer (KVP), Barend Biesheuvel (ARP) and Jur Mellema (CHU) made a public appearance, stating that the three parties would continue to work together.

This caused progressive forces within the three parties, especially the ARP and KVP to regret their political affiliation. In 1968 they founded the Political Party of Radicals, a left-wing party that sought cooperation with the Labour Party (PvdA). Locally and provincially however the three parties had long cooperated well, in some areas they formed one Christian-democratic parliamentary party and proposed one list of candidates. In the 1971 general election, the three parties presented a common political program, which lay the foundation for the first Biesheuvel cabinet.

After the disastrous elections of 1972 the cooperation was given new momentum. Piet Steenkamp, a member of the Senate of the Netherlands for the KVP was appointed chairman of a council which was to lay the foundation for a federation of the three parties, and provide a common manifesto of principles. In 1973 this federation was officially formed, with Steenkamp as chairperson.

The cooperation was frustrated by the formation of the Den Uyl cabinet, established by the leader of the social-democratic PvdA and Prime Minister of the Netherlands Joop den Uyl. Den Uyl refused to allow members of the CHU in the cabinet that he would lead. This led to a situation where the CHU, ARP and KVP formed a federation and had one parliamentary party in both houses of parliament, but only the KVP and ARP supplied ministers and junior ministers. The cabinet Den Uyl was riddled with political and personal conflicts. Another issue that split the three parties was the place the Bible would take in the new party.

Period of CDA prime ministers 1977–1994

Dries van Agt, Leader from 1976 until 1982 and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1977 until 1982.
Ruud Lubbers, Leader from 1982 until 1994 and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1982 until 1994.

In 1976, the three parties announced that they would field a single list at the 1977 general election under the name Christen Democratisch Appèl. The KVP minister of Justice, Dries van Agt, was the top candidate. In the election campaign he made clear the CDA was a centrist party, that would not lean to the left or to the right. The three parties were able to stabilize their proportion of the vote.

The election result forced Van Agt to start talks with Den Uyl. Although Van Agt had been Deputy Prime Minister in the cabinet Den Uyl, the two had never gotten along well. The animosity between them frustrated the talks. After more than 300 days of negotiations, they finally officially failed, and Van Agt was able to negotiate a cabinet with the conservative liberal VVD. The Cabinet Van Agt-I had a very narrow majority. The unexpected cabinet with the VVD led to split within the newly founded CDA between more progressive and more conservative members. The progressives remained within the party, and were known as loyalists. On 11 October 1980, the three original parties ceased to exist and the CDA was founded as a unitary party. After the 1981 general election, the VVD and the CDA had lost their majority, and the CDA was forced to cooperate with the PvdA. Van Agt became prime minister and Den Uyl became deputy prime minister. The second Van Agt cabinet was troubled by ideological and personal conflicts, and fell after one year.

After the 1982 general election, the new CDA leader, Ruud Lubbers, formed a majority coalition with the VVD. The first Lubbers cabinet set an ambitious reform program in motion, which included budget cuts, reform of the old age and disability pensions and liberalization of public services. Lubbers won the 1986 general election and again in 1989, and he was not only supported by Christians, but also by non-religious people. In 1989 however, although the CDA had won the elections, they were only able to get a minimal majority with the VVD, which they had also gradually fallen out with during the previous cabinet, leading the CDA to instead cooperate with the PvdA in the new government. In the third Lubbers cabinet, the ambitious reform project was continued, with some adaptations and protests from the PvdA.


The 1994 elections were fraught with problems for the CDA: personal conflicts between prime minister Lubbers and lijsttrekker Elco Brinkman, a lack of support for the reforms of old age and disability pensions, and the perceived arrogance of the CDA caused a dramatic defeat at the polls. A new coalition was formed between Labour and the two liberal parties, consigning the CDA to opposition for the first time ever. It was also the first government without any Christian Democratic ministers since 1918. The party was marred by subsequent internal battles over leadership. The party also reflected on its principals: the party began to orient itself more toward communitarian ideals.

During the tumultuous 2002 general election, which saw the murder of Pim Fortuyn, many people voted for the CDA, hoping that it could bring some stability to Dutch politics. The CDA led the first Balkenende cabinet, which included the VVD and the Pim Fortuyn List (LPF). This cabinet fell due to internal struggles within the LPF. After the 2003 general election, the Christian Democrats were forced to begin cabinet negotiations with the PvdA. Personal animosity between Balkenende and the leader of the PvdA, Wouter Bos, frustrated these negotiations. Balkenende eventually formed a coalition with the VVD and Democrats 66. The coalition proposed an ambitious program of reforms, including more restrictive immigration laws, democratization of political institutions and reforms of the system of social security and labour laws.

After the 2006 elections the CDA changed their course radically: they formed a new fourth cabinet Balkenende still led by Balkenende, but now with the social-democratic PvdA and the social-Christian ChristianUnion. The cabinet was more progressive, entailing increased government spending funded by higher taxes.[12]

In the 2010 elections the CDA lost half of its seats and became only fourth after VVD, PvdA and PVV. Balkenende announced his resignation and stayed prime minister until the formation and inauguration of the Rutte cabinet.

After the fall of the short-lived Cabinet Rutte I (2010–2012), in which the CDA participated, the party announced a leadership election. On 18 May 2012 the party announced that the leadership elections were won by Sybrand van Haersma Buma. He received more than 50 percent of the votes. The popular Mona Keijzer, the rising star within the party, received 26% of the votes and announced that she will closely collaborate with Van Haersma Buma during the election campaign prior to the Dutch general election on 12 September 2012. In that election, the CDA suffered considerable losses, falling to 13 seats. The party was left out of the Rutte II cabinet—only the second time in its history that the party has not been in government. At the municipal elections of 19 March 2014 the CDA won 18% of all the votes and remains the largest local party.[13]

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Leader from 1997 until 2001.
Jan Peter Balkenende, Leader from 2001 until 2010 and Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 2002 until 2010.
Sybrand van Haersma Buma, Leader since 2012.

Ideology and issues

The CDA is a Christian democratic party, but the Bible is only seen as one source of inspiration, for individual members of parliament. The party also has Jewish, Muslim and Hindu members of parliament, and it favors the integration of minorities into Dutch culture.

The party has four main ideals: shared responsibility, stewardship, justice, and solidarity. Shared responsibility refers to the way society should be organized: not one organization should control all society, instead the state, the market, and social institutions, like churches and unions should work together. This is called sphere sovereignty, a core concept of Protestant political philosophy. Furthermore, this refers to the way the state should be organized. Not one level of the state should have total control, instead responsibility should be shared between local, provincial, national and European government. This is called subsidiarity in Catholic political thought. With stewardship the Christian Democrats refer to the way we should treat our planet: the Earth is a gift from God. Therefore, we should try to preserve our environment.

Practically, this means the CDA is a centre party. However, the party has a considerable centre-left wing, that supports eco-friendly politics, a strong pro-European policy and favors centre-left coalitions. The position of the centre-left group within the party has been weakened since the party's participation in the centre-right minority cabinet with the VVD (the Rutte cabinet), a cabinet that strongly depends on the parliamentary support of the Party for Freedom. CDA politicians that can be considered centrist or centre-left: Jack Biskop (MP), Ad Koppejan (MP), Kathleen Ferrier (MP; daughter of the late Johan Ferrier, president of Suriname 1975–1980), Dries van Agt (former Prime Minister), Ruud Lubbers (former Prime Minister) and Herman Wijffels (former chairman of the Social Economic Council, former informateur).

Maxime Verhagen, the informal leader of the CDA and current deputy Prime Minister, strongly denies the claim that the CDA is considered a right-wing party. Verhagen continues to tell the media that his party is a centrist and moderate party and that the CDA participates in a centre-right coalition (with the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) as the right-wing component and the CDA as the centrist component).[14] However, his colleague in the cabinet, minister of Defence, Hans Hillen, is a strong proponent of a conservative CDA.

New party course

At a congress on 21 January 2012 the party adopted a centrist course, dubbed by former minister of Social Affairs Aart-Jan de Geus as "Radical centrist" ("het radicale midden").[15] The party explicitly abandoned its former center-right course. Despite of this, the party continued its coalition with the centre-right VVD of Prime Minister Mark Rutte and the Party for Freedom of Geert Wilders until the government collapsed later in the year.

The so-called Strategic Council, which was formed in 2011 and headed by former minister Aart-Jan de Geus, that worked on a report to redifine the party course, advised the following:

In 2014 partyleader Van Haersma Buma announced that the party is now officially in favour of an elected mayor,[16] although a large majority of its party members are opposed to an elected mayor.[17]

Electoral results


Election year House of Representatives Government Notes
# of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
1981 2,677,259 30.8 (#5)
48 / 150
Decrease 1 in coalition
1982 2,420,441 29.4 (#2)
45 / 150
Decrease 3 in coalition
1986 3,172,918 34.6 (#1)
54 / 150
Increase 9 in coalition
1989 3,140,502 35.3 (#1)
54 / 150
Steady 0 in coalition
1994 1,996,418 22.2 (#2)
34 / 150
Decrease 20 in opposition
1998 1,581,053 18.4 (#3)
29 / 150
Decrease 5 in opposition
2002 2,653,723 27.9 (#1)
43 / 150
Increase 14 in coalition
2003 2,763,480 28.6 (#1)
44 / 150
Increase 1 in coalition
2006 2,608,573 26.5 (#1)
41 / 150
Decrease 3 in coalition
2010 1,281,886 13.6 (#4)
21 / 150
Decrease 20 in coalition
2012 801,620 8.5 (#5)
13 / 150
Decrease 8 in opposition
Election year Senate Government Notes
# of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
27 / 75
in coalition
19 / 75
Decrease 8 in opposition
20 / 75
Increase 1 in opposition
23 / 75
Increase 3 in coalition
21 / 75
Decrease 2 in coalition
11 / 75
Decrease 10 in coalition
12 / 75
Increase 1 in opposition

European Parliament

Election year # of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
# of
overall seats won
+/– Notes
1979 2,017,743 35.6 (#1)
10 / 25
1984 1,590,218 30.0 (#2)
8 / 25
Decrease 2
1989 1,813,035 34.5 (#1)
10 / 25
Increase 2
1994 1,271,840 30.8 (#1)
10 / 31
Steady 0
1999 951,898 26.9 (#1)
9 / 31
Decrease 1
2004 1,164,431 24.4 (#1)
7 / 27
Decrease 2
2009 913,233 20.1 (#1)
5 / 25
Decrease 2
2014 713,767 15.0 (#2)
5 / 26
Steady 0


Members of the House of Representatives

Current members

Current members of the House of Representatives since the general election of 2012:


Seats in the House of Representatives:

1977 – 48
1972 – 49 ... (KVP 27, ARP 14, CHU 7)
1971 – 58 ... (KVP 35, ARP 13, CHU 10)
1967 – 70 ... (KVP 43, ARP 15, CHU 12)
1963 – 76 ... (KVP 50, ARP 13, CHU 13)
1959 – 75 ... (KVP 49, ARP 14, CHU 12)
1956 – 77 ... (KVP 49, ARP 15, CHU 13)

Members of the Senate

Current members

Current members of the Senate since the election of 2015:


Seats in the Senate:

2015 – 12
2011 – 11
2007 – 21
2003 – 23
1999 – 20
1995 – 19
1991 – 27
1987 – 26
1983 – 26
1981 – 28

1980 – 27
1977 – 24
1974 – 29 ... (KVP 16, ARP 6, CHU 7)
1971 – 36 ... (KVP 22, ARP 7, CHU 7)
1969 – 39 ... (KVP 24, ARP 7, CHU 8)
1966 – 39 ... (KVP 25, ARP 7, CHU 7)
1963 – 40 ... (KVP 26, ARP 7, CHU 7)
1959 – 42 ... (KVP 26, ARP 8, CHU 8)
1956 – 41 ... (KVP 25, ARP 8, CHU 8)

Members of the European Parliament

Current members

Current members of the European Parliament since the election of 2014:

The CDA has been a member of the European People's Party (EPP) since 1976,[18] and CDA MEPs sit in the EPP Group.

Local and provincial government

By far, the CDA has the most members of municipal and provincial councils in the Netherlands. Furthermore, it cooperates in most municipal and provincial governments.


The CDA is mainly supported by religious voters, both Catholics and Protestants. These tend to live in rural areas and tend to be elderly. In some periods, however, the CDA has functioned as a centrist party, attracting people from all classes and religions.

Geographically, the CDA is particularly strong in the provinces of North Brabant, Limburg and Overijssel and in the Veluwe and the Westland areas. In the 2006 elections the CDA received the highest percentage of votes in the municipality of Tubbergen, Overijssel (66,59% of the vote). The CDA is weaker in the four major cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) and in Groningen and Drenthe.



  • Chairmen
    • Piet Steenkamp (23 June 1973 – 11 October 1980)
    • Piet Bukman (11 October 1980 – 14 July 1986)
    • Wim van Velzen (31 January 1987 – 7 March 1994)
    • Tineke Lodders (7 March 1994 – 4 February 1995)
    • Hans Helgers (4 February 1995 – 27 February 1999)
    • Marnix van Rij (27 February 1999 – 10 October 2001)
    • Bert de Vries (10 October 2001 – 2 November 2002)
    • Marja van Bijsterveldt (2 November 2002 – 22 February 2007)
    • Peter van Heeswijk (2 June 2007 – 10 June 2010)
    • Henk Bleker (10 June 2010 – 14 October 2010)
    • Liesbeth Spies (1 November 2010 – 2 April 2011)
    • Ruth Peetoom (2 April 2011 – )

Linked organizations

The youth movement of the CDA is the Christian Democratic Youth Appeal (CDJA). The CDA publishes a monthly magazine, and its scientific bureau publishes the Christian Democratic Explorations (Christen-Democratische Verkenningen).

As an effect of pillarization, the CDA still has many personal and ideological ties with religious organizations, such as the broadcasting societies KRO and NCRV, the paper Trouw, the employers organizations NCW and the union CNV.

The CDA participates in the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, a democracy assistance organisation of seven Dutch political parties.

International organizations

The CDA is a member of the European People’s Party[19] and the Centrist Democrat International.[20] Within the EPP the CDA belongs to those parties which least favour a cooperation with conservatives.

International comparison

As a large Christian democratic party, the CDA is comparable to other European Christian democratic parties such as Germany's Christian Democratic Union (although it's more moderate). It is the Netherlands' third largest party (after the VVD and the PVV), but it is centrist unlike the British Conservative Party.

See also

Further reading


  1. (Dutch) Buma gekozen tot lijsttrekker CDA NOS
  2. 1 2 Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  8. Just The Facts 101 - Good Society
    By Cram101 Textbook Reviews / CTI Reviews.
    Published 16 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016. This tertiary source summarizes another source in low detail.
  9. Barbara Wejnert (26 July 2010). Democratic Paths and Trends. Emerald Group Publishing. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-85724-091-0. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  10. Christopher Anderson (1995). Blaming the Government: Citizens and the Economy in Five European Democracies. M.E. Sharpe. p. 64. ISBN 978-1-56324-448-3. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  11. T. Banchoff (28 June 1999). Legitimacy and the European Union. Taylor & Francis. p. 126. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  18. Thomas Jansen; Steven Van Hecke (28 June 2011). At Europe's Service: The Origins and Evolution of the European People's Party. Springer. p. 51. ISBN 978-3-642-19413-9. Retrieved 19 August 2012.

External links

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