THE HAGUE–The Dutch government aims to give Dutch nationals abroad, including those residing in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten with Dutch nationality who have lived in the Kingdom of the Netherlands for ten years or more, voting rights for the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament or the Senate.
Dutch nationals living abroad currently do not have influence on the composition of the Senate, and they may only vote for the Second Chamber and the European Parliament, Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Kajsa Ollongren stated in a letter she sent to the Second Chamber last week Friday.
There are different options for how to go about giving this group of an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million voting rights for the Senate, but Ollongren prefers to establish an Electoral College, similar to the system that will be used for the first time in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba on March 20. An electoral college is a special body that has only one task: to elect the members of the First Chamber.
Ollongren said she would like to discuss her idea for an electoral college with the Second Chamber. The Dutch governing accord states that the voting process needs to be adapted so it becomes easier for Dutch nationals abroad to exercise their right to vote, also in relation to the elections for the First Chamber.
In her letter, Ollongren stated that the previous minister, Ronald Plasterk, had explained to the Second Chamber in 2014 how an Electoral College could look to enable Dutch nationals living abroad to have a say in the composition of the Senate. At the time it concerned the handling of the law proposal to establish Electoral Colleges for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
The Dutch Constitution has to be amended to set up an Electoral College for Dutch nationals living abroad. This was already done to establish the Electoral Colleges for the Caribbean Netherlands, a new phenomenon that will be applied for the first time on the three public entities.
Ollongren used a number of cardinal points of departure and focal points of the Caribbean Netherlands electoral colleges in her letter to inform the Parliament about her proposal. Amending the Constitution takes several years: two consecutive Parliaments have to give their consent with at least two-thirds support.
Ollongren’s proposal was music to the ears of former Democratic Party D66 candidate for the past two Second Chamber elections Eelco Keij, who lives in New York and has been advocating for voting rights for Dutch nationals abroad for years.
“Not only the Second Chamber, but also the First Chamber has influence on the lives of Dutch nationals residing outside the Netherlands. It is only logical that the members of the First Chamber can be held responsible by us, Dutch people abroad. It is great to see that the current Dutch government recognises and acknowledges us,” Keij told The Daily Herald in an invited comment.
Keij is the author of the 2014 political manifesto “Capital Connections” about the economic and cultural added value of Dutch nationals abroad. He is setting up a new organisation, Foundation Dutch Nationals Outside the Netherlands, which will be officially launched in April.