In just nine months, there will be elections in the Netherlands. As this is the case, parties either choose a new party leader, or reappoint their current party leader for a new term. Many parties already made a choice, but not every party appointed a new leader yet. D66 and CDA are the most notable parties in that spectrum. Both parties will choose their new leader by an internal election, but this is not without any risks.
Four years ago, the PvdA decided to choose their new leader by an election too. In ended up in a fairly harsh battle between Diederik Samsom, back then the leader of the party and chairman of the parliamentary group and Lodewijk Asscher, Minister of Social Affairs in the Rutte-II Cabinet. The election was a relative close call in favor of Asscher and he became the leader of the PvdA. Samson immediately resigned after losing the party leader election and left the political arena for a few years. Nowadays, he is heading the cabinet of EU-Commissioner Frans Timmermans. Asscher is the group chairman in the Second Chamber for the PvdA now, as due the major loss of the party, the PvdA ended up as opposition party.
The major losses of the PvdA in the 2017 elections were a mix of both the partly leader elections and the participation in the Rutte-II government. Besides that, the other left wing parties were stronger in 2017 compared to the 2012 elections. Especially GroenLinks was not attractive as they were during the 2012 election, with Jesse Klaver as their leader. This made the PvdA the biggest left wing party and it ended up in government together with Mark Rutte’s right-wing VVD. Although this cabinet was fairly successful and was the first to sit out the full four years since 1998, it did not end up very well for the PvdA. Political commenters described the PvdA participation silent, not really as distinctive as a left-wing party. Not a good thing in a time of unemployment, which would normally be excellent to profile a left-wing party in power.
If we link this to the coming elections, looking at the CDA is the most interesting, as D66 currently has only one candidate for their leadership now: Minister of Foreign Trade Sigrid Kaag, a former diplomat. The CDA however, has four candidates for their leadership, two of them are members of the Second Chamber: Pieter Omtzigt and Martijn van Helvert, the other two are in the Rutte-III Cabinet: Hugo de Jonge and Mona Keijzer. The party members will soon choose their leader in an online election and the new party leader of the CDA will be announced shortly afterwards. As a party in government, having an attractable leader is important in the elections, but seeing what happened in the PvdA, having a smooth election for party leadership seems to be as important too. The new leader will have only eight months to profile the party before the elections.
With the current corona crisis, the most notable CDA-party leader candidate is of course Hugo de Jonge, Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport. After Bruno Bruins’ resignation, he is mainly responsible for the corona crisis policies, together with prime minister Rutte. Although he is well-liked, he is not attracting as many voters as Omtzigt does in the most recent polls. Since he announced his candidacy, the CDA became a bit more popular under FVD, PVV and SP voters. Although the last party does not really fit the trend, the attractiveness of Omtzigt under right-wing voters seems clear.
To conclude, it is important for the CDA to have a smooth leadership election, without splitting the party up in two camps, like the PvdA in 2017. This so the new leader can profile himself and the party for the 2021 election. Meanwhile, D66 has only one candidate, assuming that stays that way, the party has enough time to profile itself and turn Sigrid Kaag into their political leader, as she’s not as experienced in the political arena as the CDA-leadership candidates are. So if you get bored of corona, following this leadership elections can be pretty interesting.
Photo in header by Arnaud Jaegers on Unsplash