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Wim Voermans in favour of merging Dutch House of Representatives and Senate

The battle for a strong power position in the run up to the provincial council elections in the Netherlands is currently being fought fiercely. Prime Minister Mark Rutte has become accustomed to a minority in the Senate in recent years. The four Rutte cabinets were always able to do business with various parties; sometimes on a specific topic, sometimes with a fixed group of parties.

The discussion about ‘how political can the Senate be’ regularly flares up. Laws passed in the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) are reviewed in the Senate (Eerste Kamer) in relation to feasibility, necessity, and quality. In the end, the Senate can only vote for or against – that’s its core task. But despite this more restrained role, the political ‘bargaining’ that goes on in the House of Representatives regularly occurs in the Senate too. 

‘The Senate is becoming increasingly political and an answer needs to be found for that’ says Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law at Leiden University. To illustrate his point, he cites the Nitrogen Act which is still to be voted on. ‘Looking at the opinion polls, it’s quite possible that the new Senate will later vote down the Nitrogen Act.  So, a correction on what the House of Representatives had already decided. Something needs to be done about that’.  Voermans believes that such a political mandate should lie with directly elected representatives of the people, not with indirectly elected members of the Senate. 

As far as Voermans is concerned, the entire electoral system should be overhauled. ‘Organise it more regionally. Merge both chambers, so that 75 members are elected regionally, and 150 members nationally. And have the elections at the same time to achieve more balance’, he says on Dutch news site NU.

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