The Daily Herald writes that opposition parties the Socialist Party (SP) and Democratic Party D66 in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament will be objecting to the proposed law change to take away the voting rights of foreign residents of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba during its handling in the Second Chamber today, Wednesday.
D66 Member of Parliament (MP) Wassila Hachchi is planning to table a motion if Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk does not present a solid argument during today’s plenary debate as to why he will not establish a socalled Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands, which would be the solution to maintain the voting rights of foreigners on the three islands, according to her and the majority in the First Chamber. In that motion, Hachchi will call on the minister to send a law proposal to the Second Chamber before the summer of 2015 to establish an Electoral College that would elect the members of the First Chamber on behalf of the island residents with Dutch nationality.
MP Ronald van Raak (SP) will offer a different solution for the constitutional dilemma to have foreign residents maintain their right to vote in the Island Council elections while at the same time preventing this small group from having any possible influence on the composition of the First Chamber when Island Council members acquire the right to co-elect members of the First Chamber once the amended Dutch Constitution has been adapted. According to Van Raak, people on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba in any case deem the right to elect the Island Council directly much more important than the right to vote indirectly for the First Chamber through the Island Council members. Van Raak is in favour of establishing an Electoral College. Van Raak said there was support on Saba for this solution. He wanted to know whether Minister Plasterk had discussed this alternative with the islands instead of taking the easy way out by removing the voting rights of foreigners for the Island Council elections after 2015, at least once the Constitution has been amended, which is expected to happen within the next few years.
Both Van Raak and Hachchi want foreign residents’ voting rights to remain intact. Hachchi said all residents should have the right to vote for the local government, whether it concerns a Municipal Council in the Netherlands or an Island Council in the Caribbean Netherlands. “Local politics is about everyone, Dutch citizens and non-Dutch citizens. And that also counts for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. Unfortunately, the minister says, ‘I am not going to do that.’ While the solution is so simple:
untangle the elections for the Island Council and the First Chamber. This is possible with an Electoral College for the islands,” said Hachchi.
She does not accept the minister’s argument that it would be disproportionate to amend the Constitution for a small group of residents, some 1,100 in total, in a separate procedure needed to establish the Electoral College. “The inclusion of voting rights apparently depends on the size of the group. How many persons are needed for him to consider it proportionate?”
According to Hachchi, Plasterk is “hiding” behind ungrounded “circumstantial arguments.” “There is a solution that doesn’t present major objections. In proper consultation with the islands, we can come to a practical set-up of an Electoral College. This minister is lacking the will.”
Van Raak called the law proposal “wrong” for three reasons. The first is a personal reason: “You don’t first give non-Dutch residents voting rights for the Island Councils only to again take this away from them.” The second is a constitutional reason: “You differentiate between non-Dutch residents in the European part of the Netherlands and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands.” In the Netherlands, people with a foreign nationality may vote in the Municipal Elections. The third reason is a political one: “People would rather have the right to vote directly for the Island Council than the right to vote indirectly for the Second Chamber.” Van Raak will request that the minister consult with the Island Councils to find a common, practical solution with which everyone can live. The SP will vote against the law in this format.
“You differentiate between non-Dutch residents in the European part of the Netherlands and the Caribbean part of the Netherlands.” That will also happen if you exclude Caribbeans from voting for the Senate. Which IMHO would be wrong. Even if there’s only one Saban who wants influence on the Senate, he/she should have the possibility to do so. Plus, the fact that Sabans (and Statians and Bonarians?) are not interested in voting for the Senate now does not mean this will be the general opinion in ten years. After all, the Senate decides about *all* laws in the Netherlands, hence also has a direct influence on life on the BES-islands. Know what you’re asking for!