The Daily herald writes that there is limited support in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament for the proposal of the First Chamber to establish an Electoral College (Kiescollege) for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. The Socialist Party (SP), the Christian Democratic Party CDA and the Democratic Party D66 are in favour. This became apparent from a written consultation by the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Home Affairs, which was recently sent to the Dutch government. The Senate had asked Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk to discuss its proposal for an Electoral College with the Second Chamber. Almost all parties in the Senate are in favour of establishing this Electoral College, which would participate in the elections for the members of the Senate. Only persons with the Dutch nationality residing in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba would cast their vote in the elections for the Electoral College. The Senate’s reasoning is that having such an organ would shut out any influence of non-Dutch residents living on the islands on the composition of the First Chamber through the Island Council when its members attain voting right for the Senate when the Dutch Constitution is amended.
The Labour Party PvdA in the Second Chamber made it abundantly clear that it was not a proponent of such an organ and indicated support for Minister Plasterk, who is against setting a new institution for the sole purpose of securing that 1,121 non-Dutch voters on the islands would be able to vote for the Island Council. “The members of the PvdA share the minister’s view that the introduction of a special Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands, for which the Constitution would also have to be amended, is disproportionate,” the members stated. The PvdA, in principle, agreed with the three points of view of the Senate: non-Dutch residents of the islands should have voting rights for the island Council elections, non-Dutch residents should have no influence on the composition of the Senate and Dutch residents of the Caribbean Netherlands should have an influence on this composition. However, the PvdA considered it “justified” not to give the “very limited group” of non-Dutch residents voting rights for the Island Council elections after the amendment of the Constitution. The PvdA further expressed the wish that “this matter would be resolved soon.”
The CDA emphasised the Senate’s principles in its contribution and stated that right needed to be done to these three principal points of departure.
The SP hinted that the Dutch government measured with two sticks. On the one side, The Hague made “a lot” of new laws and regulations for the islands, while in this case, government deemed the scale of the islands too small to make a separate arrangement so foreigners could also vote. According to the SP, the small scale offers possibilities to find practical solutions.
The D66 party said it saw the proposed Electoral College as a “potentially solid solution” to realise the Senate’s three points of departure. The party didn’t agree that creating such a body to accommodate a small group of residents was disproportionate also because of the special position that the islands have. In the opinion of D66, the elections for the Electoral College should be combined with the Island Council elections to “keep the cost and burden as limited as possible.”
The liberal democratic VVD party stressed that it was a proponent of having active and passive voting rights for foreigners when the Island Council obtained voting rights for the senate through the amended Constitution. (See related article) The VVD asked the minister to explain what would be needed to set up an Electoral College. They wanted to know if the minister saw a relation with Dutch citizens living abroad and their indirect voting right for the Senate. The VVD suggested the minister to look at the possibility to set up a joint Electoral College for Dutch residents on the islands and Dutch citizens living abroad.
Minister Plasterk will now address the questions and remarks by the Second Chamber, after which he will report back to the Senate. The Senate has put the handling of the first reading of amending the Constitution to secure the constitutional position of the Caribbean Netherlands and regulate the voting rights of the Island Councils for the Senate on hold pending the general constitutional evaluation next year.