Electoral Colleges proposal ready before summer

A proposal to establish Electoral Colleges for Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba will be ready before the summer of 2015, Dutch Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk told the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Tuesday. This reports The Daily Herald.

A vast majority in the Second Chamber is in favour of establishing the Electoral College(s) for the Caribbean Netherlands, which became clear during a debate of the Second Chamber’s Permanent Committee for Home Affairs with Minister Plasterk. All parties present, VVD, PvdA, SP, D66 and ChristianUnion expressed support.

Both Parliament and Plasterk want to approach the issue of establishing an Electoral College (Kiescollege) in the most practical way possible. “Let’s create three separate Electoral Colleges to reduce cost and limit travelling,” said member of the Second Chamber Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP).Van Raak said that the dilemma of securing the voting rights for Caribbean Netherlands residents could only be solved by setting up Electoral Colleges for the islands. He called for a practical solution whereby all residents, those with the Dutch nationality and foreign nationals, would receive one ballot for the Island Council, while Dutch nationals would receive a vote for the members of the First Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, the Senate. Establishing one central Electoral College for all three islands was not deemed ideal because of the geographical distance between Bonaire and St. Eustatius, Saba, and the fact that the political systems between the islands was different. There is a possibility that St. Eustatius and Saba will have a combined Electoral College, which would be even more practical and cost-effective.

Member of Parliament (MP) Wassila Hachchi of the Democratic Party D66 announced that she contemplated submitting a motion next Tuesday, to urge Minister Plasterk to make haste with the Electoral College(s) for the Caribbean Netherlands. “The minister can get to work so we can have this arranged before the next elections in 2019. This motion would give off a clear signal that the Second Chamber supports an Electoral College,” she said.

Plasterk said a motion was not necessary since a proposal for consultation to establish the Electoral College(s) would be ready before the summer. Consultations on the proposal will take place with Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba since they will also have a say in this matter. The Electoral College(s) have to be created through an amendment of the Dutch Constitution. An adapted law proposal will be needed since the Second Chamber has already approved a proposal to adapt the Constitution in order to secure the voting rights of residents of the Caribbean Netherlands, and to adopt the special public entity status of the three islands.

The First Chamber has decided to defer the handling of a law proposal to regulate the voting rights on the islands until Minister Plasterk and the Second Chamber have looked at the possibilities of an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands.

MP Gert Jan Segers of the ChristianUnion, who was also present at Tuesday’s debate, accused Plasterk in a press release of waiting too long to secure the democratic rights of residents of the Caribbean Netherlands. “The votes on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba need to be taken along post-haste in the elections for the First Chamber. We need to have equal rights for all citizens of our country. On Wednesday, 20,000 people are again excluded. This needs to change for the next elections in 2019,” he stated.

MP Joost Taverne, of the liberal democratic VVD party, said during the debate that he supported an Electoral College for the Caribbean Netherlands, but he also put a proposal on the table to establish a similar body for the one million or so Dutch nationals living abroad. He said his intention was not to have the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral College wait on the establishing of an Electoral College for Dutch citizens abroad.An Electoral College for Dutch citizens abroad was a highly current topic, said Taverne as the Senate has attained a more political attitude. “People are asking me why they can’t vote for the First Chamber. It is a legitimate question. It concerns an important, large group of voters. I would like the minister to be a bit more enthusiastic and proactive on this issue,” he said.

Minister Plasterk explained that an Electoral College for Dutch nationals abroad was a “totally different” discussion. Establishing this body would require a fundamental debate on the election of the First Chamber. He also said that he did not have the mandate of the current cabinet to arrange voting rights for Dutch nationals abroad. He emphasized that it was important to separate this issue from the Caribbean Netherlands Electoral College.

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