The Daily Herald announced in an article today that the road has been cleared for the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament to approve the law proposal enabling non-Dutch nationals in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba to vote in the March 2015 Island Council elections and to also be elected into the Island Council until Island Council members acquire the right to co-elect the members of the First Chamber, the Senate, once the Dutch Constitution has been amended.
Voting on the law proposal to amend the Electoral Law (Kieswet) and the law regulating the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, the WolBES, to adapt the regulation relating to the voting right of non-Dutch nationals for the Island Council elections will take place this Tuesday.
The law proposal grants voting rights to foreign residents of the islands until the Dutch Constitution has been amended giving Island Council members the right to coelect the members of the Senate. Once this amendment has gone into effect, the voting rights of foreigners for the Island Councils will be taken away after 2019.
It is the conviction of the Dutch Government and the First and Second Chamber that foreigners should not have any influence on the composition of the Senate, no matter how small that influence would be. In an effort to maintain the voting right of non-Dutch nationals for the Island Council elections, the First and Second Chamber have proposed to establish a so-called Electoral College (Kiescollege). This organ, for which only persons with the Dutch nationality on the islands would be able to vote, would elect the members of the Senate, along with the Provincial States in the Netherlands.
On September 24, during the handling of the first term of the law proposal to adapt the Electoral Law, Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk was made to promise that he would research the possibilities of establishing an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands. On the request of the liberal democratic VVD party, Plasterk also promised to research the possibilities for a broader Electoral College enabling Dutch nationals living abroad to have a say in the Senate as well.
It was decided during the September-24 meeting that the minister would report back to the Second Chamber before January 1, 2015, after which the second term of the handling of the law proposal to change the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral Law would resume. However, late last week it became clear that the handling of the law proposal could not wait until next year because without this law being in place the passive voting right of non-Dutch nationals would not have been secured, in other words a person without the Dutch nationality would not be able to be elected into the Island Council.
As such, the Second Chamber continued the handling of the law proposal on Tuesday evening. The Democratic Party D66, the Socialist Party (SP), ChristianUnion (CU) and the reformed Christian party SGP pressed on Minister Plasterk to take the call of the Second and First Chamber to establish an Electoral College very serious.
Member of the Second Chamber Wassila Hachchi (D66) tabled a motion, cosigned by her colleagues Gert-Jan Segers (CU), Ronald van Raak (SP) and Roelof Bisschop (SGP), calling on the Dutch Government to submit a law proposal to the Second Chamber before the summer to introduce an Electoral Council. Van Raak stated that the motion would serve as pressure to ensure that Minister Plasterk would comply with his pledge to seriously research the possibility of an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands when the Second Chamber approved the adaptation to the Electoral Law. “It is not the question whether an Electoral College should be introduced, because it has to happen,” said Van Raak.
Roelof Bisschop said Hachchi’s motion served to take a decision in this highly complex matter. The SGP, CU, SP and D66 agreed that an Electoral College would be a practical solution to solve this complicated constitutional matter.
Plasterk explained that the law proposal regulated the active and passive voting right of all residents in the Caribbean Netherlands for the March 2015 Island Council elections, and that as such it was really necessary to have it approved on
short term. The minister asked Hachchi to hold on to her motion until he had researched the possibilities for an Electoral College. He said there was broad support in the Second Chamber for his notation on an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands and for Dutch nationals abroad.
Hachchi agreed to shelve her motion. The law proposal will come to voting next Tuesday.