Catholic People's Party

The Catholic People's Party (Dutch: Katholieke Volkspartij, KVP) was a Catholic Christian democratic[2] political party in the Netherlands. The party was founded in 1945 as a continuation of the Roman Catholic State Party, which was a continuation of the General League of Roman Catholic Caucuses. During its entire existence, the party was in government. In 1980 the party merged with the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) and the Christian Historical Union (CHU) to form the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA).

Catholic People's Party

Katholieke Volkspartij
LeaderCarl Romme
Wim de Kort
Norbert Schmelzer
Gerard Veringa
Frans Andriessen
FounderCarl Romme
Josef van Schaik
Laurentius Nicolaas Deckers
Frans Teulings
Max Steenberghe
Jan de Quay
Louis Beel
Teun Struycken
Founded22 December 1945 (1945-12-22)
Dissolved27 September 1980 (1980-09-27)
Preceded byRoman Catholic
State Party
Merged intoChristian Democratic Appeal
HeadquartersMauritskade 25
The Hague
Youth wingKVPJO
Think tankCentrum voor Staatkundige Vorming
IdeologyChristian democracy
Social conservatism
Political Catholicism
Political positionCentre to Centre-right
ReligionRoman Catholic
Old Catholic
European affiliationEuropean Union of Christian Democrats[1]
International affiliationNone
European Parliament groupChristian Democratic Group



The KVP was founded on 22 December 1945. It was a continuation of the pre-war Roman Catholic State Party (RKSP). Unlike the RKSP, the KVP was open to people of all denominations, but mainly Catholics supported the party. The party adopted a more progressive course and a more modern image than its predecessor.

In the elections of 1946 the party won a third of the vote, and joined the newly founded social democratic Labour Party (PvdA) to form a government coalition. This Roman/Red coalition (Roman (Rooms) for the Roman Catholic KVP, Rood, Red for the social democratic PvdA) lasted until 1958. In the first two years the KVP's Louis Beel led the Cabinet. Beel was not the party's leader a post which was taken by Carl Romme, who led the KVP between 1946 and 1961, from the House of Representatives. After the 1948 election the PvdA became larger and supplied the prime minister Willem Drees. The PvdA and the KVP were joined by combinations of the protestant-Christian Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) and Christian Historical Union (CHU) and the liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) to form oversized cabinets, which often held a comfortable two-thirds majority. The cabinets were oriented at rebuilding the Dutch society and economy after the ravages of the Second World War and grant independence to the Dutch colony Indonesia. That last point was caused a split within the KVP, in 1948 a small group of Catholics broke away to form the Catholic National Party (KNP): it was opposed to the decolonisation of Indonesia and to cooperation between the Catholics and social-democrats. Under pressure of the Catholic Church the two parties united again in 1955.

Louis Beel, Prime Minister from 1946 until 1948 and from 1958 until 1959.
Piet de Jong, Prime Minister from 1967 until 1971.

The KVP was at the height of its power from 1958 to 1965. It was the dominant force in all cabinets, and every prime minister during this time was a party member. In 1958 the Fourth cabinet of Drees fell and Louis Beel formed an interim-cabinet with KVP, ARP and CHU. After the 1959 elections the KVP formed a centre-right cabinet with ARP, CHU and VVD, led by KVP member Jan de Quay. It continued to strengthen the welfare state. After the 1963 elections this cabinet was succeeded by a new cabinet of KVP-CHU-ARP-VVD, which was led by the KVP's Victor Marijnen. This coalition oversaw an economic boom. Norbert Schmelzer became the party's new leader, again operating within the House of Representatives and not the cabinet. A cabinet crisis over the Netherlands Public Broadcasting however caused the cabinet to fall in 1965. The KVP and ARP formed a cabinet with the PvdA, led by the KVP's Jo Cals. This cabinet also fell in the Night of Schmelzer, in which Norbert Schmelzer forced a cabinet crisis over the cabinet's financial policy. This was the first fall of cabinet, which was directly broadcast on television. An interim government of KVP and ARP was formed, led by the ARP's Jelle Zijlstra.


The period 1965–1980 is period of decline, crisis and dissent for the KVP. The share of votes for the KVP began to decline after 1966, because of depillarisation and secularisation: There were fewer Catholics and Catholics no longer supported a Catholic party.

In the 1967 elections the KVP lost 15% of its votes and 8 seats. During the election campaign the KVP, ARP and CHU declared that they wanted to continue cooperating with each other. Cooperation with the PvdA was much less important. This led to unrest under young and left wing KVP supporters, including Ruud Lubbers, Jo Cals, Erik Jurgens and Jacques Aarden, who called themselves Christian Radicals. After the elections this promise was upheld and the KVP formed a cabinet with its old partners, led by Piet de Jong. After much debate some of the Christian Radicals broke away from the KVP in 1968 to form the Political Party of Radicals (PPR). These include three members of parliament, who form their own parliamentary party Groep Aarden. Lubbers and Cals stayed with the KVP. The new party became a close partner of the PvdA. In the 1971 elections the KVP lost another 7 seats (18% of its vote). The KVP again joined the ARP, CHU and VVD to form a new centre-right cabinet with rightwing dissenters of the PvdA, united in DS'70. The ARP's Barend Biesheuvel led the cabinet. In 1972 the cabinet fell because of internal problems of the junior partner, DS'70.

In the subsequent elections the KVP again lost eight seats, leaving only 27, 23 less than in 1963. The cabinet again lost its majority and the KVP saw no alternative than to cooperate with the PvdA and its allies PPR and D66. An extra-parliamentary cabinet is formed by PvdA, PPR and D66 joined by prominent progressives from KVP and ARP. The KVP's ministers include the minister of Justice Dries van Agt and the minister of the Economy Ruud Lubbers. The KVP does not officially support this cabinet, which is led by social democrat Joop den Uyl. This cabinet was characterised by infighting and fell just before the 1977 elections.

In the 1970s the KVP realised that if it wanted to continue it needed to find new ways of cooperating. Ideas to form a broad Christian democratic party, like the German Christian Democratic Union were brought into practice. In 1974 the three parties formed a federation, called Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA). In the 1977 elections the CDA won more seats than the KVP, ARP and CHU had together. After the elections, Dries van Agt became prime minister for the CDA. In 1980 the three parties officially dissolved themselves into the CDA.

The Catholics still constitute a powerful group within the CDA. Indeed, the CDA's first two prime ministers, van Agt and Ruud Lubbers, came from the KVP side of the merger. In the early years a system of equal representation of Catholics and Protestants was practiced, from which the KVP as only Catholic group profited. Nowadays many CDA members, like Maxime Verhagen and Maria van der Hoeven have a background in the KVP's political Catholicism.


The name Catholic People's Party (Dutch: Katholieke Volkspartij; KVP), must be seen in contrast with the name of its predecessor Roman Catholic State Party. The party no longer uses the name "Roman Catholic", but simply "Catholic", de-emphasising its religious affiliation. It is no longer a state party, but a people's party, emphasising its progressive, democratic nature. The new name emphasises the KVP's progressive, democratic and non-denominational image.

Ideology and issuesEdit

The KVP was a Christian democratic party, which based itself on the Bible and Catholic dogma.

As such it was a proponent of a mixed economy: A strong welfare state should be combined with a free market, with a corporatist organisation. Trade unions and employers' organisations were to negotiate on wages in a Social Economic Council and should make legislation for some economic sectors on themselves, without government intervention, in so called Productschappen.

The state should watch over the morality of the people: divorce should be limited, recreation should be moral (for instance different swimming hours for women and men) and the family should be preserved. Families were to be helped by fiscal policies, such as the "kinderbijslag", support by the government, by the newly set up Ministry of Culture, Recreation and Welfare, and the possibility to buy their own home.

Internationally, the KVP was a staunch proponent of European integration and cooperation with the NATO. The party sought the middle ground in the issue of decolonisation: Indonesia and Suriname should be independent countries within a Dutch Commonwealth.

Electoral performanceEdit

Election Votes Seats Position Government
# % # ±
1946 1,466,582 30.8
32 / 100
  1   1st Coalition
1948 1,531,154 31.0
32 / 100
  0   1st Coalition
1952 1,529,508 28.7
30 / 100
  2   2nd Coalition
1956 1,815,310 31.7
49 / 150
  19   2nd Coalition
1959 1,895,914 31.6
49 / 150
  0   1st Coalition
1963 1,995,352 31.9
50 / 150
  1   1st Coalition
1967 1,822,904 26.5
42 / 150
  8   1st Coalition
1971 1,379,672 21.8
35 / 150
  7   2nd Coalition
1972 1,305,401 17.7
27 / 150
  8   2nd Coalition

Municipal and provincial governmentEdit

KVP members in Provincial legislatures (1950)
Province Result (seats)
Groningen 2
Friesland 3
Drenthe 2
Overijssel 14
Gelderland 21
Utrecht 12
North Holland 19
South Holland 16
Zeeland 9
North Brabant 52
Limburg 39

The party was particularly strong in the southern provinces of Limburg and North Brabant, where it often held 90% of the seats in the provincial and municipal legislatures and supplied all provincial and municipal governments, provincial governors and mayors. In regions like Twente, West Friesland and Zeelandic Flanders it held similar positions in municipalities, but cooperated with other parties on the provincial level.



Leader Term of office Age as Leader Position(s) as Leader Further position(s) Lijsttrekker
  Carl Romme
10 January 1946 –
18 February 1961
(15 years, 39 days) [3]
49–64 Member of the House
of Representatives

Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
Member of the House
of Representatives

Member of the Senate
Minister of Social Affairs
Member of the
Council of State

Minister of State
(18 February 1961 – 15 August 1961)
Wim de Kort
15 August 1961 –
7 December 1963
(2 years, 114 days) [3]
52–54 Member of the House
of Representatives

Mayor of Nieuw-Ginneken
Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
Member of the House
of Representatives

  Norbert Schmelzer
7 December 1963 –
25 February 1971
(7 years, 80 days) [3]
42–50 Member of the House
of Representatives

Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
State Secretary for
the Interior

Member of the House
of Representatives

State Secretary for
General Affairs

Member of the Senate
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Gerard Veringa
25 February 1971 –
1 October 1971
(218 days) [3]
46–47 Minister of Education
and Sciences

Member of the House
of Representatives

Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
Minister of Culture,
Recreation and Social Work

Member of the
Council of State

  Frans Andriessen
1 October 1971 –
25 May 1977
(5 years, 236 days) [3]
42–48 Member of the House
of Representatives

Parliamentary leader in the
House of Representatives
Minister of Finance
Member of the Senate
European Commissioner
for Competition

Vice-President of the
European Commission

European Commissioner
for Agriculture

and Fisheries
European Commissioner
for External Relations

and Trade
(25 May 1977 – 27 September 1980)


The KVP was supported by Catholics of all classes. Its strength was in the Catholic south of the Netherlands: Brabant and Limburg, where it often obtained more than 90% of vote. It was also strong in Catholic regions like Twente, West Friesland and Zeelandic Flanders.

During the 1960s and 1970s the KVP lost part of its electorate to progressive parties like the PPR, the PvdA and D66.


Linked organisationsEdit

The KVP had an own youth organisation, the Catholic People's Party Youth Groups (Dutch: Katholieke Volkspartij Jongeren Groupen; KVPJG) and a scientific foundation: the Centre for Political Formation.

International organisationsEdit

In the European Parliament the KVP's members sat in the Christian Democratic group.

Pillarised organisationsEdit

The KVP had close links to many other Catholic institutions such as the Catholic Church and together they formed the Catholic pillar. These organisations included the Catholic Labour Union NKV, the Catholic Employers Organisation KNOV, the Catholic Farmers' Organisation KNBLTB, Catholic Hospitals united in the Yellow-White Cross and Catholic Schools. The Catholic Broadcasting Association KRO and the Catholic Paper De Volkskrant were the voices of the KVP.

Relationships to other partiesEdit

As a Christian party, the KVP had strong ties with the conservative Protestant ARP and Christian Historical Union. The strong ties resulted in several cabinets in the period 1946-1977 and the formation of the Christian Democratic Appeal, in which the three parties united in 1974.

The KVP had a strong centre-left group within its ranks. These supported closer cooperation with the social democratic PvdA. This resulted in several cabinets with the PvdA, but also splits within the party, most notably the formation of the Political Party of Radicals

International comparisonEdit

As the party of a Catholic minority in a dominantly Protestant country, the KVP is comparable to the German Centre Party, which existed before the Second World War and the Christian Democratic People's Party of Switzerland. Its political position and agenda are similar to other catholic Christian democratic parties in Europe, such as the Flemish Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams party and the Italian Christian Democracy.


  1. ^ Thomas Jansen; Steven Van Hecke (19 May 2011). At Europe's Service: The Origins and Evolution of the European People's Party. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 23. ISBN 978-3-642-19414-6.
  2. ^ Peter Starke; Alexandra Kaasch; Franca Van Hooren (7 May 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.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Politiek leider van een partij". Parlement&Politiek. Retrieved 2012-11-03.

Further readingEdit

  • Electoral Stability and Electoral Change: The Case of Dutch Catholics by Herman Bakvis in: Canadian Journal of Political Science / Revue canadienne de science politique Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 1981), pp. 519–555
  • Bosmans, Jac (2004). Michael Gehler; Wolfram Kaiser (eds.). The Primacy of Domestic Politics: Christian Democracy in the Netherlands. Christian Democracy in Europe since 1945. Routledge. pp. 47–58. ISBN 0-7146-5662-3.
  • Changing Procedures and Changing Strategies in Dutch Coalition Building by Hans Daalder In: Legislative Studies Quarterly Vol. 11, No. 4 (Nov., 1986), pp. 507–531
  • Conservatism in the Netherlands by Hermann von der Dunk In: Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 13, No. 4 (Oct., 1978), pp. 741–763