Back in 1966, a group of Dutch citizens criticised on the way the Dutch democracy works. This led to the constitution of the political party “Democraten 66”. Before that time, a well-known critic of the functioning of the democracy was the “Vrijzinnig Democratische Bond”. Nowadays, the self-proclaimed youth movement G500 shows the weaknesses once again. Which points do these critics make?

Since the Dutch elections were held a week ago on 12 September 2012, we have now entered the stage where the cabinet is formed. Traditionally, this means that several party leaders attempt to create an agreement on which the coalition can be built. This is a long process that takes commonly a quarter of a year, although there are extremes in both directions.

We Do Not Elect a Government
In the Netherlands, we elect a representation in parliament. Although the coalition has to consist of parties that have a majority of the seats in parliament, we only vote for one representative of one party. This means that citizens have no idea which coalition they will end up with when they vote.

For the critics, the inability to elect a government is one of the major issues with the current Dutch systems. These days, this has led to a phenomenon called strategic voting. It means that citizens try to make an educated guess of the possible coalitions based on the polls and the debates between party leaders, and adjust their votes accordingly.

The youngsters of the G500 – a youth movement that wants to influence the current political parties to their advantage – even went so far to create a digital platform where people can fill in their desired combination of political parties. After entering this information, they are connected to other citizens such that their combined votes result in this coalition of choice. In practice, this means a lot of people entering different coalitions resulting in an extensive calculation how everyone should vote to get all votes distributed as wished. As one can see, the platform creates even more complexity in the system, aside from the serious security issues raised by such a website controlled by a third party.

Parliament and Government Are Interdependent
Due to the agreement on which the coalition relies, the majority of the parliament and cabinet are intertwined. When a member of parliament wants to vote differently than the rest of his party, he can be blamed for killing the coalition. When an urgent situation arises, the minister cannot act decisive, as the parties in the coalition have to agree on the measures beforehand.

At the same time, the minority cannot easily get things done. Due to the strict conditions on which a typical Dutch political agreement is built, the coalition in the parliament and government says how things are done, and the opposition has limited influence.

Who Is That Man in Parliament?
The final problem commonly mentioned is that only the party leaders are well-known. The other party members, especially those that are lower on the ballots, are not very widely known. Due to the fact that they lift upon the popularity of their party, they do not have to campaign for themselves and, if they do, it has little influence.

The complaint of unknown candidates getting elected is often heard in combination with the lack of transparency of political parties and the fact that only 2.4% of the Dutch citizens eligible to vote is a member of a party. Given that the parties are responsible for the ballot, only a very small percentage of people controls whether the less known members of the party are able to get a seat in parliament. Depending on the internal process of electing candidates, this power becomes more or less influenced by the board of the party.

Do We Need to Democratise the Netherlands?
Members of the mentioned parties, such as the author, will agree that the Netherlands need to be democratised further. On the other hand, we are far from an agreement in the direction we should be heading and the solutions that should be proposed. Furthermore, some parties note the weaknesses, but do not deem them to be a problem. Nevertheless, we can agree upon the fact that we merely elect a political representation that builds a coalition and is strongly influenced by the parties of which it consists.

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