Friday , March 24 2023

Voting rights of foreigners public entities still a dilemma

Voting rights for non-Dutch nationals in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba remain a dilemma for The Hague. The proposal to amend the Dutch Constitution doesn’t include a definite solution for the issue of the influence that this group of foreign citizens may indirectly have on the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament. The law proposal to change the Constitution to secure the special status of the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, when approved by a next Parliament after 2017 would make it possible for Island Council Members to elect Members of the First Chamber.

The situation on the public entities is special, because in The Netherlands only the Provincial States can elect the 75 Members of the First Chamber. Dutch Municipal Councils don’t have this right. This means that the situation is not equal, because non-Dutch nationals in The Netherlands cannot vote for the Provincial States, whereas non-Dutch residents of the three islands can vote for the Island Council. Non-Dutch nationals in The Netherlands can only vote for the Municipal Council. And that is exactly why some parties in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament are opposing this proposed change to the Constitution.

For the conservative VVD party this is a matter of principle. VVD Member of Parliament (MP) Foort van Oosten said his party “absolutely”

does not want non-Dutch nationals on the islands to have any influence in the First Chamber, even though their influence is extremely limited at 0.01 per cent. “There are about 1,000 non-Dutch nationals on the islands. That is not a lot. But for us it is a matter of principle. Our objection would still be the same if there was only one foreigner living on the islands. We don’t want any non-Dutch national to have any influence on Dutch national policies,” said Van Oosten.

The Socialist Party (SP) agrees with the VVD that non-Dutch nationals should have no influence on Dutch national policies. But MP Ronald van Raak of the SP said he did find it a dilemma to take away the voting rights of non-Dutch nationals for the Island Council. He asked the minister if there was no other solution, one that everyone would be happy with. He asked Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies whether this issue had been discussed with the islands.

MP Pierre Heijnen of the Labour Party PvdA pointed out that non-Dutch nationals on the islands made up a pretty large part, about 20 per cent of the population on St. Eustatius and Saba, and that this group could not be overlooked. “If we would have to chose with a knife on our throat, we will find the interest of this group of citizens more important than the 0.01 per cent effect on the composition of the First Chamber,” said Heijnen, who received support from the Democratic D66 party and the Christian Union on this issue.

Minister Spies explained that the amendment to the Constitution doesn’t make a specific choice on the matter and merely left it up to Dutch Parliament to take a definite decision on any changes to the Electoral Law. She said that the final decision on the voting right for non-Dutch nationals will have to be made in consultation with the Island Councils of the public entities.

Source: “The Daily Herald” 2012-10-11

Changes to Constitution come after evaluation public entities
No ceremony for 10-10-10


  1. I would agree with the Labour Party. These voting rights will include about 20% of the population on the BES islands and makes them feel like a part of the system. The influence on the first chamber election is so minimal that nobody needs to fear that they would have too much influence on them.

  2. Honestly speaking I disagree with this whole terminology. I do not feel that it should be allowed for foreign voters to vote in local elections. The small scale of Saba this could be very detrimental towards to real Sabans. I would suggest to the Dutch political establishment to organize a referendum on the islands to determine the opinion and sentiments of the local population. Already on Saba we are experiencing certain changes because of some outside interference. Many foreign nationalities are outright showing that they have no interest in Saba and is only there because of economic reasons. Can I as a Saban go into another persons country and vote in their local elections I don’t think so. This is my own personal view regarding this matter and would like to see a broad based discussion on this matter. this was tried in 2011 and I ask myself if it was a good decision. I can imagine that I will be criticized for making this statement but so be it.

  3. I agree with Mr. Levenstone as far as the need for an island-wide discussion on this subject. However I am of the opinion:

    If someone lives on Saba, he or she should have the right to have his or her voice heard and be properly represented. In the 21 st century it is not appropriate to have Saba governed by a small group. Also minorities have the right on representation. Saba is not a isolated kingdom, but part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: by choice. Of course there are consequences.


  4. As a business person who runs his business on Saba for about 13 years and employees about 20 people, represents Saba on my own cost in Europe on travel and dive shows and spends lots of money for advertising and investing in the island and the product (which benefits the local economy, taxi drivers, restaurants, supermarkets and the population in general), I think it would be fair to let me vote for the island council elections. I also think I have shown that I want to life here, stay here and do my fair share by paying taxes and giving people jobs. It would make me fell better if I’m allowed to vote too (as I could for the first time in the last election). Some maybe see me as a foreigner, but one with good intentions and appriciation. I feel that Saba is my home now, and I’m sure many of us “foreign business people” feel the same way.

  5. René Caderius van Veen

    I cannot imagine that in any country in the EU or in the USA nor elsewhere actually, inhabitants who don’t have a passport of that country where the are living and working, are able to vote at any governmental level for political elections in that country. The only way is to ask for a passport issued by the country and therefor change your nationality.

  6. Interesting lack of imagination. Dutch citizens are supposed to know the law. The rules for eligibility to vote for the local council are well defined. So commitment to the community in which one lives is key, not the passport.

  7. René Caderius van Veen

    Yes you are right John Johnson, foreigners who live in the Netherlands have that right to vote for local elections since 1987 when they have lived in the Netherlands for at least 5 years. In Belgium this is the case since 2000. I was totally wrong and Wolfgang is totally right. Thanks for my opening my eyes and for learning.