Unity and course CDA at stake during extra party congress in Den Bosch
Parliamentary reporter Valentijn Bartels is present at the party congress. Follow him through his tweets at the bottom of this article.
In his speech at the congress, CDA chairman Van Rij judged the disaster year harshly. Especially the departure of Omtzigt stings him. “Pieter Omtzigt’s departure was not my desired outcome,” said Van Rij from the audience to loud applause. “The culture in our party really needs to change. It should never be the case that we want to silence the other in an attempt at ultimate control.”
Liesbeth Spies cracked hard nuts in her evaluation about the disastrous CDA year. On Saturday she will go even further. ‘Commitment, sadness and powerlessness’ are words that come to her mind. “We lost this election to ourselves. The CDA team was not a CDA team.”
The emotions of party members are visible on Saturday. There is criticism of the course, credibility and the messy run-up to last year’s elections. ‘Why was Omtzigt not chosen when De Jonge did not want to become a party leader?’, members wondered amid applause.
But the agricultural vision, or the lack of it, is also under attack. Critical CDA members call for more attention for farmers. Several Christian Democrats ask whether the CDA is a middle party. These calls can count on enthusiasm from the audience. “We should not focus on left or right,” shouts a critical party member.
Shortly before the start on Saturday morning, there are still rows of CDA members in front of the door. Security has their hands full to check everyone in time for corona proof. Party members whisper about ‘the day of truth’ while waiting. Headpieces show themselves early on. For example, party leader Wopke Hoekstra is present early on Saturday afternoon to address the congress.
CDA top on the mat
After a turbulent year, the CDA top is called to the fore at an extra party conference in Den Bosch. A return of popular MP Pieter Omtzigt, hoped by some members, has now been ruled out, but prominent Christian Democrats have some explaining to do about the split and the lousy election results.
Last year it seemed as if there was a permanent storm in the CDA. For example, there was the messy party leader election in which Hugo de Jonge narrowly beat Omtzigt. Subsequently, there was a leadership change, whereby Hoekstra became party leader shortly before the elections to the House of Representatives.
Painful departure Omtzigt
And to top it all off, there was the painful departure of file-eater Omtzigt before the summer. During the congress in the Brabanthallen in Den Bosch, members mainly talk about the hard-hitting conclusions that party prominent Liesbeth Spies drew as a result of the disaster year.
The congress comes at a time when the cabinet formation is deadlocked. Potential cabinet partners therefore look closely at internal struggles among the Christian Democrats. CDA members can also make the already complicated formation even more difficult by taking a sharper position on the loaded theme of completed life with a resolution on Saturday. If the heels go further in the sand, collaborating with D66, which already has little appetite for a minority government with VVD and CDA, will become even more difficult.