The Daily Herald writes that the Dutch Government so far has not found it necessary to consult the governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba about finding practical solutions to securing the voting rights of non-Dutch residents in the Caribbean Netherlands. Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk stated in a letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday, that there had been no consultation with the island governments to discuss practical solutions “since these solutions would invariably imply the introduction of an Electoral College.”
St. Eustatius and Saba have formally objected to the law proposal to eliminate the voting rights of foreigners. The Dutch Government does not want to introduce an Electoral College (“Kiescollege”) because it deems the installation of a special college, which has to be anchored in the Dutch Constitution, to secure the voting rights of some 1,200 foreign residents on the islands disproportionate. “I am not convinced of the benefit and necessity of constitutionally securing a new Electoral College,” Plasterk stated.
The First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate, had asked Minister Plasterk to discuss the possibility of an Electoral College with the Second Chamber. This College, for which only persons with the Dutch nationality on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba could vote for, would co-elect the Members of the Senate. The Electoral College construction would prevent foreigners on the islands from having influence on the composition of the Senate through the Island Council elections for which so far they have voting rights.
The proposed change to the Dutch Constitution, which the Senate has put on hold pending the general constitutional evaluation in 2015, regulates that members of the Island Council would have voting rights for the Senate. In the Netherlands, the Provincial States elect the members of the Senate. The Dutch Government has proposed a change to the Electoral Law (“Kieswet”) to take away the voting rights of persons without the Dutch nationality on the three islands to eliminate any chance of this group having an influence, no matter how small, on the composition of the Senate. The law would go into effect at the moment when the Constitution is amended. Until that time, foreigners have voting rights for the Island Council.
The point of view that non- Dutch residents should have an influence on the nearby layer of government, namely the Island Council, is secondary to point of view that residents with the Dutch nationality should have an influence on the composition of the Senate. “Government sees, because it is not a proponent of introducing a separate Electoral College, no other solution than to eliminate the active and passive voting rights of non-Dutch residents for the Island Councils at the moment that the Island Councils get to elect the members of the Senate,” Minister Plasterk stated in the document that was sent to the Second Chamber on Tuesday. According to Plasterk, the early submitting of the law proposal to amend the Electoral Law was meant to give the Caribbean Netherlands “clarity” on the voting right for the Island Councils before 2015. The Dutch Government considered it important to give residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba with the Dutch nationality influence on the composition of the Senate as soon as possible, at least before 2019. “It is of great importance to secure that Dutch citizens of the Caribbean Netherlands get influence on the composition of the Senate as soon as possible, before 2019,” Plasterk stated. Taking away the voting right of foreign residents in the Caribbean Netherlands for the Island Councils is a controversial issue because people who do not have the Dutch nationality are allowed to vote in the Municipal Elections in the Netherlands.
The governments of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba have protested against the Dutch law proposal to eliminate the voting rights of foreigners living on their islands. The issue was discussed in two separate meetings of the Executive Councils with the Senate and the Second Chamber on Tuesday. The islands have repeated their objections in these meetings.