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