Tuesday , October 24 2017

Wrong message

In an opinion in The Daily Herald one can read as follows:

Today’s plenary debate in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on the proposal to take away the voting rights of foreign residents in the Caribbean Netherlands promises to be interesting. At least two opposition parties oppose such and strongly are suggesting alternatives.

The main problem is that foreigners can vote for the Island Councils of Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, the members of which – once the new Constitution has been amended – consequently will be able to co-elect members of the First Chamber (Senate) in The Hague. This is considered undesirable and in the European part of the Netherlands non-citizens participate only in municipal, not provincial or national elections.

One of the possibilities mentioned is establishing a separate so-called Electoral College to help choose First Chamber members on behalf of only Dutch passport holders on these islands. Although it probably involves additional cost and manpower, the majority in the First Chamber apparently approves of this solution. The latter is significant certainly in political terms, because the Rutte cabinet requires support in both chambers for its continued policies. Whether that pressure also will lead to a change in what’s now on the table remains to be seen.

Another option reportedly backed in Saba is not to let Island Council members vote for the First Chamber at all. The reasoning is that local elections are considered more important there anyway. However, especially in light of their distance it is a good idea to stimulate involvement of the three new special overseas public entities with the Dutch Government, so that a sense of belonging is promoted. In fact, the goal actually should be to enhance rather than decrease this input. Something also to be kept in mind is that the three islands never really requested allowing foreign residents to vote in the first place, but this was more or less “imported” from the Netherlands as a result of the new constitutional relations within the kingdom. To take away that right again now wouldn’t exactly send the correct message regarding their much-needed integration and active participation in society.

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