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Merge the Dutch Senate and House of Representatives

A new Senate (Eerste Kamer) has been elected in the Netherlands and the current government coalition has lost its majority. The majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) have not been this far apart for quite some time. High time to merge both chambers, argues Wim Voermans in Dutch newspaper NRC.

Eerste Kamer as political arena

Why are diverging majorities in both chambers problematic according to Voermans? It will make it more difficult for the coalition to pass legislation on issues that are already politically contentious. They will have to negotiate with even more parties. In addition, this division turns the Eerste Kamer into a second political arena. In principle, the Senate is not allowed to amend bills that have been sent to them for approval, but they already wield a disguised form of this power: 'by asking the government whether or not they would be willing to make certain changes to their proposals. This has been happening more and more often in recent years, (...) and not only to do with technicalities.'

Veto position

Voermans refers to the democratic mandate for the Eerste Kamer as 'doubly bad'. '[Senators] almost never represent local regions or provinces, and certainly not the 'ordinary' voters. And yet the Eerste Kamer is extraordinarily powerful. It has a veto position at the end of the legislative process and can stop anything decided by the directly elected Tweede Kamer, even on political grounds.'

Swedish solution

Voermans looks to our northern neighbours for a solution: 'Merge the two chambers into one chamber, one part of which would be directly elected via national elections and the other would be elected via regional delegation.' One chamber with 225 members; this also immediately solves the problem of the relatively small size of the Tweede Kamer in proportion to the Dutch population.

You can read the article (in Dutch) on the NRC website.

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