New Dutch govt. may scrap referendums, introduce mayoral elections
The parties negotiating forming a new Dutch government together are currently talking about scrapping consultative referendums, which means that citizens will no longer be able to give an advisory vote on changes in legislation, RTL Nieuws reports based on sources. The VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie are also negotiating mayoral elections - allowing the residents of municipalities to vote for their mayor, according to the broadcaster.
D66 leader Alexander Pechtold, a great advocate for administrative renewal, would not comment on these plans on Thursday morning. "I won't get ahead of matters that we are negotiating and on which there is no agreement yet", he said to the broadcaster.
The topic of referendums has been controversial since the Ukraine referendum in April last year. The referendum had a turnout of only 32 percent, but 61 percent of those voters voted against a cooperation agreement between the European Union and the Ukraine. While the results of the referendum were not binding, it did leave the government in a bind. Prime Minister Mark Rutte had to scramble to find a solution that would both address the concerns of the people of the Netherlands, and keep the trust in the Netherlands as international ally in tact. Rutte himself described the results of the referendum as "disastrous". Dutch newspapers called it an "embarrassment" , "a dilemma" and "a recipe for discontent".
Exactly a year after the referendum, the Council of State released a report stating that thoughtless use of referendums and other forms of "people's democracy" sooner or later undermines the functioning of the Dutch representative democracy and the rule of law.
The D66 has always been a supporter of this form of input from the public. Ideally the party would like to go a step further and introduce a corrective referendum, in which the voters decides how to proceed, according to RTL. But on Thursday morning Pechtold said that this is not feasible in current politics.
Allowing citizens to vote for their mayor, on the other hands, seems like a feasible possibility, should the new government support it, according to the broadcaster. Currently the trust committees of city councils nominate candidates for mayor, based on advice from the Minister of Home Affairs, and the government picks a new mayor from the candidates. This led to criticism in the past, and accusations that ruling parties only pick candidates from their own party. Holding an election for mayor can change that.
The way in which a mayor is chosen is set down in the Constitution. This means that in order to change the process, a proposal must pass through both the Eerste and Tweede Kamer - the Dutch Senate and lower house of parliament - twice, the second time with a two-thirds majority vote. Two years ago the D66 proposed that the way in which a mayor is chosen be removed from the constitution, so that a parliamentary majority vote would be sufficient to change the process. That proposal already passed through the Eerste and Tweede Kamer once successfully. If the formation parties decide to support it, it can also gain the two-third majority needed on the second time through. The CDA and ChristenUnie voted against it the first time.