31 Mayors call on Dutch Senate to keep mayoral appointment procedure as is

31 mayors of larger Dutch cities are calling on the Senate not to remove the appointment of mayors from the Dutch constitution, and to keep the procedure as is. Removing the appointment procedure from the constitution is the first step in enabling an elected mayor. The mayors are worried that this will result in them losing their connecting role as "father or mother for all residents, businesses and institutions", they wrote in an open letter to the Senate, the Volkskrant reports.

The Senate also received a second letter to this same effect. This one was signed by the Dutch Association of Mayors, the Aldermen's Association, the Dutch Association of Councilors, and the Association of Dutch Municipalities. This means that almost the entire local government of the Netherlands has reservations about mayoral elections. The Senate will consider the bill about removing the appointment of the mayor from the constitution next week.

The bill passed through the lower house of Dutch parliament with broad support, only the SGP voted against it. Many parties supported the proposal precisely because it leaves open how mayors would be elected in the future. The amendment to the law makes it possible for a mayor to be directly elected by the population, or by the city council, or in a vote in two rounds during which coalitions can be formed, according to the newspaper. Mayoral elections are also mentioned in the Rutte III coalition agreement. 

Currently a confidential committee consisting of municipal councilors conducts job interviews with candidates selected by the Commissioner of the King. The committee's recommendation then goes to the Minister of Internal Affairs and Kingdom Relations, who in practice always agrees with the committee. The names of the candidates are not published. According to Dordrecht mayor Wouter Kolff, one of the letter writers, this is to prevent candidates from being discouraged or harmed. He fears that it will be more difficult for an elected mayor to stand above the political parties. "It is important that we first thoroughly think about local democracy as a whole. Strange that such a vision is not there yet", he said to the Volkskrant. 

If the mayor is elected, the office will receive a more political charge and the division of duties between the mayor and the aldermen will have to be reviewed. The 31 mayors are critical that the bill does not give substance on how this will be done. They first want a "thorough substantive discussion about our office", and are worried that "the planning of the local government, rightly anchored in the constitution, will be handed over to the political delusion of the day", they wrote in their open letter. 

The 31 signatories of the letter to the Senate are members of various political parties. Ahmed Marcouch of Arnhem, Ahmed Aboutaleb of Rotterdam, and Paul Depla of Breda are prominent PvdA members. Liesbeth Spies of Alphen aan den Rijn, Jos Wienen of Haarlem, and Hubert Bruls of Nijmegen belong to the CDA. Wouter Kolff of Dordrecht, Jack Mikkers of Den Bos and Charlie Aptroot of Zoetermeer are members of the VVD. Onno van Veldhuizen of Enschede belongs to the D66, Sebastiaan van 't Erve of Lochem belongs to GroenLinks, and Bort Koelewijn of Kampen belongs to ChristenUnie.

There are also a number of prominent mayors who did not sign the letter, including Femke Halsema of Amsterdam (GroenLinks), Pauline Krikke of The Hague (VVD), and Jan van Zanen of Utrecht (VVD). Van Zanen did sign the second letter, but as chairman of the Association of Dutch Municipalities and not as Mayor of Utrecht.