CDA is fundamentally different than D66, VVD, new leader Henri Bontenbal says

The CDA has not conveyed its own story enough, said the new party leader Henri Bontenbal about the CDA’s poor performance in the polls. He described the CDA as a party that differs “fundamentally” from progressive and liberal parties like the VVD and D66. “My CDA is a we party at a time when the me-era is coming to an end.” Progressive and liberal parties put the individual first, while the CDA wants a strong society.

“It has not been possible to tell the real CDA story with passion and fearlessness,” said the parliamentarian who was presented as the new party leader on Monday. “That’s my mission.”

After times of internal commotion, his party is at about six seats in the Peilingwijzer – a weighted average of four different polls. The CDA currently has 14 seats in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, where it occupied over 40 of the 150 seats two decades ago.

That is not only due to the many compromises the CDA made in government coalitions in recent years. According to Bontenbal, the Rutte IV Cabinet, which collapsed last month, is “a Cabinet that did not run smoothly from the start. Of course, we suffer from that.” The same applies to internal quarrels at the CDA. “If there is trouble in your own party, the voter will, of course, also think: why am I joining you?”

According to Bontenbal, the people who walked away from the CDA mainly did not vote at all. “I want those people back.” He wants to achieve this by returning to themes that are important to the CDA. “Norms and values,” he cites as an example – the theme of former Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. “A sense of community” and “decency” are also important topics, according to the new party leader.

His party must turn a page, he said. “I think step one is real: the political leader must be in the faction.” As the parliamentary faction leader, Bontenbal must be able to convey the CDA story more clearly than a Deputy Prime Minster if the party co-governs again.

He hopes to end up with “a lot more seats than we currently have in the polls,” but the election will be a success for him if the CDA remains true to its values. In his first speech, Bontenbal emphasized his hopes for a campaign focusing on “content and vision.”

CDA will only pick a new chairman next year

Only in the spring will the CDA elect a new chairman to replace Hans Huibers, who has stepped down. Acting party chairman Mark Buck confirmed that to ANP when asked, Huibers resigned after anonymous media criticism of his performance.

A congress must appoint a new chairman. The next CDA congress is in the autumn. That will be the election congress. But the party will not be able to open the application procedure before then, said Buck. At the next congress in March, members will vote for a new chairman candidate. Until then, Buck will remain acting chairman.

The congress in September will be devoted to the parliamentary election. Members will give their opinion on the election program and the list of candidates for the Tweede Kamer. They’ll also officially elect Henri Bontenbal as the new party leader.

Reporting by ANP and NL Times

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