Christian Union (Netherlands)

This article is about the Dutch political party. For other uses, see Christian Union (disambiguation).
Christian Union
Leader Gert-Jan Segers
Chairman Piet Adema
Leader in the Senate Roel Kuiper
Leader in the House of Representatives Gert-Jan Segers
Leader in the European Parliament Peter van Dalen
Founded 15 March 2001 (2001-03-15)
Merger of GPV and RPF
Headquarters Partijbureau ChristenUnie
Johan van Oldebarneveltlaan 46, Amersfoort
Youth wing PerspectieF
Thinktank Mr. G. Groen van Prinsterer Stichting
Ideology Christian democracy
Social conservatism
Soft Euroscepticism
Political position Centre[1] to centre-right[2]
Religion Orthodox Protestant[note 1]
European affiliation European Christian Political Movement
International affiliation None
European Parliament group European Conservatives and Reformists
Seats in the Senate
3 / 75
Seats in the House of Representatives
5 / 150
29 / 570
Seats in the European Parliament
1 / 26

The Christian Union (Dutch: ChristenUnie), abbreviated to CU, is a Christian democratic[3] political party in the Netherlands. The CU holds socially conservative positions on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and euthanasia, is Eurosceptic, while maintaining progressive stances on economic, immigration and environmental issues.[4][5][6] The party self-describes itself as "social Christian".[7]

Founded in 2000 as a merger of the Reformed Political Alliance (GPV) and Reformatory Political Federation (RPF),[4] the Christian Union has five seats in the House of Representatives and four in the Senate. After doubling its seats in the 2006 elections it became the smallest member of the fourth Balkenende cabinet.[4] In some elections, it forms an alliance with the Calvinist Reformed Political Party (SGP), which, unlike the CU, is a testimonial party.

Primarily a Protestant party, the CU bases its policies on the Bible, and takes the theological principles of charity and stewardship as bases for its support for public expenditure and environmentalism. The party seeks for government to uphold Christian morality, but supports freedom of religion under the doctrine of sphere sovereignty. The party is moderately Eurosceptic; it sits with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament. It is a member of the European Christian Political Movement.


Before 2000

The Netherlands has a long tradition of small orthodox or conservative Protestant parties in parliament. The Reformed Political Party (SGP) entered parliament in the 1922 election as a split off from the Anti Revolutionary Party, the Hervormd Gereformeerde Staatspartij (HGS) entered parliament in the 1925 election, a split from the Christian Historical Union. The SGP did survive the war years, but the HGS was unable to obtain seats in the 1946 elections. In 1948, the Reformed Political Alliance (GPV) split from the Anti Revolutionary Party over a religious issue within the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, but it took until 1963 for the party to enter parliament. In the 1981 election, the Reformatory Political Federation (RPF) entered parliament. It had split from the ARP six years earlier over the formation of the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA).

Azure, billetty Or a lion with a coronet Or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together Or. [The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht.] The shield is crowned with the (Dutch) royal crown and supported by two lions Or armed and langued gules. They stand on a scroll Azure with the text (Or) "Je Maintiendrai" (French for "I will maintain".)
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The RPF explicitly stated in its manifesto of principles that it sought to unite all reformed parties in the Netherlands. However, the GPV and SGP were somewhat less receptive. The GPV was only open to a specific current in reformed Protestantism, namely the Reformed Churches (Liberated), did not want to cooperate with non-'liberated' reformed: it had rejected the entry of the group that was to become the RPF in the 1970s on religious grounds. The SGP had rejected cooperation with these parties because they had female members; the SGP consistently rejected female suffrage until 2006. The RPF, GPV and SGP were testimonial parties, which chose to voice their concerns about government policy, while acknowledging that they are not big enough to force their opinion upon others.

In 1984 however the three parties cooperated in the European elections and presented a common list in order to enter the European Parliament. In the 1989 general election they formed an electoral alliance in order to enhance their chances of obtaining seats. In 1995 informal talks were opened between the three parties. The GPV had opened itself to non-liberated members, but the SGP not to women. The discussions with the SGP were broken off and the GPV and RPF continued together. For a long time the GPV was not willing to enter a major internal debate with the RPF which also performed better electorally; it had won three seats in the 1998 elections while the GPV received only two. From 1998 the two parliamentary parties cooperated with each other, held common meetings and appointed common spokespersons. In 1999 a group called "Transformatie" (Transformation) was set up by young people from both parties in reaction to the slow cooperation process: they tried to intensify the debate about cooperation. In the same year the cooperation talks were formalized and intensified, leading to the foundation of the Christian Union.


The Christian Union was founded in January 2000 as an alliance between the RPF and GPV. In 2000 their youth organizations, GPJC and RPFJ, fused completely, presenting an example to their mother organizations. In 2001 they formed a common parliamentary party in both the House of Representatives and Senate. In 2002 the alliance entered the elections for the first time. The party got four seats - one seat less than the 1998 election when they campaigned separately. It had polled much better, with some polling stations predicting seven or eight seats. The party's leader Kars Veling stepped down. He had been good at keeping the peace internally in a party still somewhat divided along the old GPV and RPF blood lines, but had not appealed well enough to the population at large. With preference votes a woman, Tineke Huizinga (positioned no. 7 on the CU candidate-list) was elected into parliament for the CU, becoming the first woman to enter parliament for the party or its predecessors. Because of her election, prominent party figure Eimert van Middelkoop, who was no. 4 on the candidate-list, had to leave parliament. In the 2003 general election the party lost an additional seat, and was left with three seats. Again Huizinga (now no. 4 on the list) was elected with preference votes and this time former RPF leader Leen van Dijke (no. 3) had to leave parliament. The decline of the CU in 2003 was probably due to party supporters voting for the Christian-democratic CDA, which was competing with the social-democratic PvdA, to become the largest party. The Christian Union was heavily involved in the formation of Balkenende II, along with the SGP. However, the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) vetoed the formation of a cabinet that included the two conservative Reformed parties, and so the progressive liberal D66 became a part of the governing alliance instead. In 2004 the two organizations RPF and GPV officially ceased to exist, making the fusion into CU final.

In the 2006 elections the party doubled its seats and joined the fourth cabinet Balkenende. CU-leader André Rouvoet became minister without portfolio for family and youth. Since the party has entered government, there has been some controversy about the conservative Christian ethical views of some of its members. In 2007 Yvette Lont, a CU municipal council member for Amsterdam, expressed the view that homosexuals should not be admitted to representative functions within the party. Also in 2007, municipal council member Monique Heger decided to resign from office, because she had recently discovered that she was a lesbian, and she and her (female) partner moved in together.

In October 2013 the Second Rutte cabinet (VVD and PvdA), which has no majority in the Senate, reached a budgetary agreement with the CU, the SGP and the social liberal D66. This occasional coalition is nicknamed "purple plus the Bible" (Paars met de Bijbel) as it includes the purple parties VVD, PvdA and D66 plus the Bible-minded parties Christian Union and SGP. The term "purple plus the Bible" had already been used in February that year, when the same parties reached an agreement on modernising the housing market. Although the cabinet is quite unpopular and the VVD and PvdA lost a lot of municipal seats during the municipal elections of 19 March 2014, the parties that give tactical support to the minority government of VVD and PvdA, D66, CU and SGP won a lot of seats.

Ideology and issues

The CU calls itself a Christian social party. The party has its roots in orthodox Protestant parties, often referred to as the "small right". It combines a conservative point of view on ethical and foreign policy issues, with more centre-left ideas on economic, asylum, social and environmental issues. Its conservative reformed ideals are reflected in its program of principles: It believes that the state is the swordmaiden of God. It bases its politics directly on the Bible. However, it sees separate duties for the state and the church in public life: the church should spread the Word of God, while the state should merely uphold public morality. The state should respect the religion of its citizens. Other Christian principles, like neighbourly love and stewardship for the Earth, however have given the CU's political program a centre-left orientation.

Some of CU's conservative policies[8] include:

More Center-left policies include:

Social Christian

The Christian Union describes itself as "Christelijk-sociaal" (Social Christian) and explicitly distance themselves from the labels Christian socialism or Christian right.[10][11] "Social Christian" describes a Christian democracy ideology that is more right-wing than Christian socialism and more left-wing than the Christian right and social conservatism. Described as centrist and Orthodox Protestant; its emphasis on the community, social solidarity, support for a welfare state, and support for some regulation of market forces but more conservative on several social issues like favor the pro-life position in opposing euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage, abortion and soft euroscepticism. But more socialistic on issues like social policy, asylum policy, development aid, green environmental policy and the economy.[7][12]


This table shows the CU's results in elections to the House of Representatives, Senate, European Parliament and States-Provincial, as well as the party's political leadership: the fractievoorzitter is the chair of the parliamentary party and the lijsttrekker is the party's top candidate in the general election; these posts are normally taken by the party's leader. It also listed whether the CU was in government at the time. For further information the membership figure and the name of the party chairman of the CU are listed.

Year House of Representatives Senate European Parliament States-Provincial Leader in elections Parliamentary group leader Cabinet Membership Chair
2000 5 4 2 37 no elections Leen van Dijke and Gert Schutte opposition unknown Thijs van Daalen
2001 5 4 2 37 no elections Leen van Dijke and Gert Schutte opposition unknown Thijs van Daalen
2002 4 4 2 37 Kars Veling Kars Veling opposition 27.250 Thijs van Daalen
2003 3 2 2 26+3* André Rouvoet André Rouvoet opposition 27.000 Thijs van Daalen
2004 3 2 1 26+3* no election André Rouvoet opposition 25.074 Thijs van Daalen
2005 3 2 1 26+3* no election André Rouvoet opposition 24.235 Peter Blokhuis
2006 6 2 1 26+3* André Rouvoet André Rouvoet opposition 24.156 Peter Blokhuis
2007 6 4 1 35+3* no election Arie Slob Andre Rouvoet 26.673 Peter Blokhuis
2008 6 4 1 35+3* no election Arie Slob Andre Rouvoet 27.683 Peter Blokhuis
2009 6 4 1 35+3* no election Arie Slob Andre Rouvoet 26.745 Peter Blokhuis
2010 5 4 1 35+3* André Rouvoet André Rouvoet Andre Rouvoet 26.441 Peter Blokhuis
2011 5 2 1 24 no election Arie Slob opposition 25.480 Peter Blokhuis
2012 5 2 1 24 Arie Slob Arie Slob opposition ? Janneke Louisa
2013 5 2 1 24 Arie Slob Arie Slob opposition ? Klaas Tigelaar
2014 5 2 1 24 Arie Slob Arie Slob opposition ? Klaas Tigelaar
2015 5 3 1 ? Arie Slob Arie Slob opposition ? Klaas Tigelaar

*: elected on combined SGP/CU-lists (estimate).

Members of the cabinet

From 2007 to 2010 the CU supplied two ministers and one state secretary in the Fourth Balkenende cabinet:

Members of the House of Representatives

After the 2012 elections the party has five representatives in the House of Representatives:

Members of the Senate

After the 2015 Senate elections, the party has three representatives in the Senate:

Members of the European Parliament

After the 2014 European Parliament elections, the party has one representative in the European Parliament:

Municipal and provincial government

Provincial government

Since the Provincial elections of March 2011 the Christian Union has had 24 members of the States-Provincial. It is part of the provincial executives of Overijssel and Flevoland.

The following table below shows the election results of the 2011 provincial election in each province. It shows the areas where the ChristenUnie is strong, namely Groningen, Overijssel, Gelderland and Flevoland, provinces which have a traditional large conservative Protestant population. The party is especially weak in the southern Catholic provinces of Limburg and North Brabant and the more secular North Holland province.

Province Votes (%) Result (seats)
Drenthe ? 2
Flevoland ? 3
Friesland* ? 3
Gelderland ? 3
Groningen ? 3
Limburg ? 0
North Brabant* ? 0
North Holland* ? 1
Overijssel ? 3
South Holland ? 2
Utrecht ? 2
Zeeland ? 2

* result of combined CU/SGP lists; ** members of the CU (estimate) in combined CU/SGP parliamentary parties.

Municipal government

Eight of the 414 mayors of the Netherlands are members of the CU. CU tends to have mayors in smaller rural districts in the so-called "Bible belt". This includes cities like Tholen, Staphorst and Elburg. The party cooperates in several local executives, both in the more conservative Bible Belt area, and in several larger cities like Leiden or Utrecht where the CU is a small party but needed to form a majority. It has 71 aldermen. It has 398 members of local legislatures.


The CU was supported by orthodox Reformed of many denominations, such as the Christian Reformed Churches, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) and the Dutch Reformed Church. But members of newer churches such as the Evangelical Church and the Pentecostal community also supported this party. The electorate is concentrated in the smaller rural districts in the so-called "Bible Belt" an area of more conservative Christian municipalities that reaches from Overijssel, through the Veluwe and the Biesbos to Zeeland. The party also draws support from Christians with an immigrant background, who are mostly located in the large cities.

The party is also drawing support from a growing number of conservative Roman Catholics, dissatisfied with the, in their eyes, less Christian policies of the CDA. Roman Catholics are welcome to become a member of the party although one of the foundations of the party is the Heidelberg Catechism, known for its staunch anti-Catholicism. During the Provincial elections of 2007 the party fielded two Roman Catholic candidates on their shortlist of the province of Limburg. This process has alerted some prominent CDA politicians. CU-senator Egbert Schuurman stated the CU will provide a shelter for everyone who actively believes in Jesus Christ but also said the CU will always be a Protestant party.

The Party's congress, held on June, 13th, 2015 replaced the Heidelberg Catechism with Nicean Creed.


Organisational structure

The highest body in the CU is the Union Congress, formed by delegates from the municipal branches. It appoints the party board and decides the order of the candidates on the lists for elections to the Senate, House of Representatives and European Parliament and has the final say over the party program. A member congress has an important role in the formation of the CU's political direction.


The CU currently has 26.673 members (as of January 1, 2007). They are organized in over 200 municipal branches.

Linked organisations

The youth organisation of the party is PerspectieF which was formed as a fusion of the two youth organizations of the CU's predecessors the GPJC and RPFJ. The party publishes the HandSchrift (HandWriting) six times a year. The party's scientific institute is the Mr. Groen van Prinsterer Foundation, which publishes the DenkWijzer (ThoughtWiser). The women's organization is Inclusief.

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

International organisations

Internationally the CU is a member of the European Christian Political Movement. Its MEPs are seated in the European Conservatives and Reformists group.

Orthodox-Protestant (pillarized) organisations

The CU still has ideological strong links with so-called pillarized organizations. Together with conservative Protestant schools, papers like the Nederlands Dagblad and the Reformatorisch Dagblad, the Protestant broadcaster Evangelische Omroep, several Reformed churches they constitute the conservative or orthodox Reformed pillar (Dutch zuil). While all four of the traditional Dutch pillars (socialists, liberals, Protestants and Catholics) have broken down since the 1960s, the orthodox reformatory pillar has actually strengthened in reaction to the process of secularization.

Relationships to other parties

The Christian union has been in the opposition until 2006. It has good relations with the orthodox Reformed Political Party (SGP), with which it forms a single European parliamentary party ChristenUnie-SGP and the Christian-Democratic Christian Democratic Appeal, with which the ChristenUnie-SGP had an electoral alliance for the 2004 European Parliament elections. As an opposition party against the centre-right Second Balkenende cabinet, the CU has gained sympathy from the left wing parties in parliament, the Dutch Labour Party, the Socialist Party and the GreenLeft, with which it cooperates in several local governments after the 2006 municipal elections.

International comparisons

The Evangelical People's Party of Switzerland is nearest to the Christian Union as a conservative Protestant party that is left wing in social matters, conservative in ethical matters and critical of the European Union.

See also

Conservatism portal


  1. Orthodox Protestantism (Orthodox Protestantism) is a term which is used in the Netherlands to refer to conservative forms of Protestantism in contrast to liberal or free-thinking forms of Protestantism. This includes conservative branches of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands (now united in the Protestant Church of the Netherlands), but also to independent forms of Reformed Protestantism, such as the Reformed Churches (Liberated) or other more conservative forms of Protestantism such as the certain branches of Baptism


  1. Jort Statema; Paul Aarts. Timo Behr; Teija Tiilikainen, eds. The Netherlands: Follow Washington, Be a Good European. Northern Europe and the Making of the EU's Mediterranean and Middle East Policies. note on p. 237.
  2. Rudy B. Andeweg; Galen A. Irwin (2014). Governance and Politics of the Netherlands (4th ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. p. 74.
  3. Peter Starke; Alexandra Kaasch; Franca Van Hooren (2013). The Welfare State as Crisis Manager: Explaining the Diversity of Policy Responses to Economic Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 193. ISBN 978-1-137-31484-0.
  4. 1 2 3 Joop W. Koopmans, ed. (2015). Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 71–72. ISBN 978-1-4422-5593-7.
  5. (Dutch) Links en Rechts- Parlement & Politiek
  6. Rudy B. Andeweg; Galen A. Irwin (2014). Governance and Politics of the Netherlands (4th ed.). Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 74, 78.
  7. 1 2 (Dutch) ChristenUnie Parlement & Politiek
  8. ChristenUnie - Standpunten
  9. (Dutch) ChristenUnie op 1 in energiebarometer Greenpeace Christian Union
  10. Andeweg, R. and G. Irwin Politics and Governance in the Netherlands, Basingstoke (Palgrave) p.49
  11. Parties and Elections in Europe: The database about parliamentary elections and political parties in Europe, by Wolfram Nordsieck
  12. (Dutch) CU is niet meer 'christelijk-sociaal' Trouw

External links

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