Democracy in the Netherlands

Published en El Pais, 26 March 2018

Last Wednesday there were elections in the Netherlands, for the city councils; the lowest administrative level. In the Netherlands, as in many countries, there is an increasing populism, fragmentation of the political landscape and a widening gap between politics and population. At the same time, those entitled to vote, voted in a consultative referendum in favor or against a new intelligence act to increase the power of the security services.

No that that the government in the Netherlands, who likes to profile itself to the outside world as  democratic, will accept the outcome of this referendum. The government has already announced in advance that the new law of intelligence will be implemented. The outcome of the referendum does not matter. Moreover, the Cabinet has previously passed a law that abolishes the consultative referendum. Too often people said ‘no’, like the referendum for the European Constitution and the trade agreement with the Ukraine. This is why, no referendum will be held on the abolition of the referendum. This apparently undemocratic course of events takes place with participation in the government of the “Democrats 66” party. Unlikely but true, the inventors of the referendum!. The confidence gap between politics and society is therefore probably not closed for the time being. This is also reflected in the attendance percentage for the municipal elections. Only 55% of the voters showed up. Last year during the elections to the national parliament, 82% voted.

In times of diminishing confidence in politics, populist parties thrive well. The right-wing “Party of Freedom” of Geert Wilders takes advantage and on the other hand, especially in the big cities, the rise of DENK. During the elections for the national parliament in 2017, this party, which focuses on people with a migrant background, already scored well and now DENK has won seats in 14 cities. Only Dutch people with a Dutch passport can vote for the national parliament, but this condition is not needed for the municipal councils. That’s where the profit of DENK lies. She has moved migrants to the ballot box. In the big cities there is more populism in the municipal councils. THINK on the one hand and the Party of Freedom on the other. As a result, the fragmentation in Dutch population and the likelihood of unstable political coalitions seems to have increased further. Is that the price of democracy in the Netherlands?

About Martijn Borst 18 Articles
Martijn Borst is Dutch and has a BSc in Finanzes and Control. He worked many years as corporate accountant. Lately he is active as a volunteer in the field of welfare and development.

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