The Daily herald reports that the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament has suspended the handling of the proposal to adapt the Caribbean Netherlands electoral law, which regulates that only persons of the Dutch nationality have active and passive voting rights for the Island Councils of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba when these Island Councils get to co-elect the members of the First Chamber.
Two permanent committees of the First Chamber, the Senate, decided earlier this week in a joint meeting that they will not handle the law proposal in question until they have received the research paper of Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk about the introduction of an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands, the so-called “Kiescollege.” The minister has promised the Dutch Parliament that he would present this paper before the end of this year.
The chairpersons of the Permanent Committees of Home Affairs, the High Councils of State/General Affairs and the Royal House Hans Engels and of Kingdom Relations Marijke Linthorst sent the letter to Plasterk on Friday, with the general approval of both committees, with the exception of the Party for Freedom PVV.
“The committees first wish to take note of this paper before they take a decision on the further handling of the proposal to change the Electoral Law. As such, they have decided to defer the preparatory investigation regarding this law proposal,” it was stated in the letter.
The committees stated that they could “envisage” that the paper would result in a principle decision of government for an Electoral College, which would lead to a withdrawal of the law proposal to change the Electoral Law since the law in question would become “superfluous.”
According to the committees, the law proposal that would again restrict the voting right for the Island Councils to those with the Dutch nationality would become superfluous when an Electoral College was introduced for the Caribbean Netherlands.
Only citizens of the islands with the Dutch nationality would be able to vote for the Electoral College, which would have the co-election of members of the Senate as its sole purpose. This would ensure that foreign citizens would have no influence on the composition of the Senate through the elected members of the Island Councils.
The Dutch government decided to draft the law proposal to amend the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral Law in anticipation of the amendment to the Dutch Constitution, which would give members of the Island Councils voting rights in electing the members of the First Chamber. The law would go into effect when the Constitution has been amended.
Government, as well as the First and Second Chambers, want to prevent that foreign residents of the islands, who have voting rights for their Island Council, have an indirect influence on the composition of the First Chamber through the members of the Island Councils for whom they are able to vote.
The preferred solution of the First and Second Chambers to this dilemma was the introduction of a Caribbean Netherlands Electoral College. Plasterk has expressed objections to the introduction of such an institution, which, in his opinion, was too complex to secure the voting rights of just a small group of foreign residents. Government’s solution was to rather remove the voting rights of non-Dutch residents, which the proposal to amend the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral Law intended to do.
The two permanent committees of the Senate, however, doubted if the law to restrict active and passive voting rights to only Dutch nationals would ever become applicable because the First Chamber has deferred the handling of the amendment to the Constitution until after the general evaluation in 2015 of the constitutional status of the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
In the opinion of the committees, there was no rush to handle the proposal to amend the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral Law before January 2015 to secure the active and passive voting rights of persons without the Dutch nationality because this group will be able to vote in the March 2015 Island Council election 2015 anyhow. The Second Chamber approved the amendment to the Electoral Law in October this year.
The committees further informed Plasterk that they didn’t want to have the option of establishing an Electoral College for all Dutch citizens living abroad to secure the voting rights of this group for the Senate, as was suggested by the Second Chamber. “The committees are of the opinion that this issue should be disconnected from the issue of the influence of Dutch nationals of the Caribbean Netherlands on the composition of the Senate. In the latter case, it concerns citizens of the Kingdom, whereas this isn’t the case where it comes to the first group [Dutch citizens living abroad – Ed.]. This is a genuine difference for the committees,” it was stated.