Party watch: ChristenUnie focus on health, families and poverty

ChristenUnie leader Mirjam Bikker. Photo: In Beeld met Floor via CU

The Netherlands goes to the polls on November 22 to elect a new government and 26 parties are taking part in the campaign. The ChristenUnie are likely to retain the five seats they have held since 2010, after their differences with the VVD over asylum triggered the downfall of Mark Rutte’s coalition in July.

Campaign leader: Mirjam Bikker
Seats in parliament: 5

Founded in 2000 from a merger of two Protestant parties, the ChristenUnie, like the ultra-orthodox SGP, draws its support heavily from the Bible Belt region. It has evolved as a milder, more progressive alternative to the SGP, appealing to a younger electorate, but still holds strictly conservative views on subjects such as abortion and euthanasia and prefers to avoid the issue of equal marriage altogether. The CU clashed with its right-wing partners in the last two cabinets on the issue of refugees, arguing that giving shelter to the poor and persecuted is a Christian duty. The CU has taken part in three cabinets in the last 20 years, but is equally at home in government or opposition, as its primary goal as a political party is to bear witness to its principles. Website

Main points from the manifesto:

  • Raise the minimum wage to €18 an hour by 2028, along with welfare payments
  • Replace tax allowances for health and childcare with a universal discount for working families
  • Increase top rate income tax and corporation taxes while reducing income tax for lowest earners
  • Cut monthly health insurance premiums by two-thirds and freeze annual excess at €385
  • Contraceptives and dental care to be included in universal healthcare package
  • Minimum prices for alcohol, age limit of 18 for energy drinks and phase out smoking
  • Extend right to leave from work for carers, parents and the recently bereaved
  • No restrictions on family reunions for asylum seekers
  • Flat VAT rate of 18%
  • Uniform corporation tax rate of 25%
  • Tax on HGV transport and packaging, higher taxes on flights and fewer energy tax exemptions
  • Extra €250 million for solar and wind energy
  • Build an extra 100,000 homes, prioritising first-time buyers and seniors
  • Invest €2 bn in regions, including schools, healthcare and public transport
  • Increase spending on defence by €2.1 bn and international co-operation by €0.8 bn

The CU is currently projected to win four or five seats, reflecting its rock solid voter base. Leader Mirjam Bikker has not ruled out joining a coalition, but has clearly stated her party’s wish to “banish neoliberalism from our system of government”, which reduces the likelihood of another partnership with the VVD.

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