Sunday , April 2 2023

Plasterk urged to adapt voting rights on BES islands

The Daily Herald writes that the  First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate, on Tuesday requested Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to include an Electoral College in the law proposal to amend the Dutch Constitution which is needed to arrange the voting rights of citizens of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.

The Senate and the minister are at odds about the way to facilitate the voting rights for citizens of the three Dutch public entities. An amendment to the Constitution is needed to safeguard the right of residents of the islands to vote for the First Chamber. The Senate and the minister agree that only persons with the Dutch nationality should be able to vote for the Senate, because it is deemed undesirable that foreigners would have influence on national issues of the Netherlands, no matter how small the influence of this last group would be. The vote for the Senate is an indirect vote. In the European part of the Netherlands, citizens (only those with the Dutch nationality) vote for the Provincial States, which in turn elects the members of the Senate. The Caribbean Netherlands doesn’t have this additional layer and only has one layer of government, which is the Island Council.

The current law proposal to amend the Constitution, which has already been approved by the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, arranges for members of the Island Council to elect members of the Senate. There are two options to arrange the voting rights for the Senate for Dutch citizens on the islands: only people with the Dutch nationality can vote in the Island Council elections or maintaining the voting rights of foreigners in the Island Council elections and instituting a special organ, an Electoral College for which only Dutch citizens can vote. This College, which would require an amendment in the Constitution, in turn would elect the members of the Senate.

The consequence of the first option is that people without the Dutch nationality, and who have been living on the islands for five years or more, would not have a say in local matters that directly affect them. In the European part of the Netherlands, people without the Dutch nationality can vote in the Municipal Council elections in the city or town where they live.

The minister is in favour of option one, while the Senate wants option two. Plasterk cited a number of reasons in earlier correspondence with the Senate, as well as in Tuesday’s meeting with the Senate’s Permanent Committees for Home Affairs/General Affairs and Kingdom Relations. Plasterk has qualified it “disproportional” to amend the Constitution for 1,128 people, which is the number of non- Dutch nationals who have been living in the Caribbean Netherlands for five years or more. A second argument for the minister to oppose an Electoral College is his fear that instituting this organ would open the door for non-Dutch nationals living in the Netherlands to also claim voting rights for the Provincial States.
The Senate doesn’t consider these arguments as very convincing. In earlier correspondence with the Senate, Plasterk further argued that it was “too complex” to have both Island Council and Electoral College elections. He anticipated that the turn-out in the elections for an Electoral College would be low. The minister contended that an Electoral College is a new phenomenon and that it would require much time to get it through the administrative process, including acquiring advice from the Council of State and handling it in the Second Chamber.

During Tuesday’s meeting it was decided that the two committees will send a letter to the minister with the request to adapt his law proposal to change the Dutch Constitution to institute an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands and to send the amended law proposal to the Second Chamber for handling.


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