Crucial senate elections take place on Monday, all eyes on cabinet majority

The 566 provincial councillors vote on Monday to choose 75 members of the senate, or upper house of parliament, in what is set to be a very closely-run election.

The 566 represent the 12 provincial authorities and were themselves chosen in March. The anti-Islam PVV is set to take seats in the upper house for the first time.
The minority cabinet made up of the VVD Liberals and Christian Democrats has an alliance with the anti-Islam PVV in the lower house of parliament, but the three parties may fall one seat short of an overall majority of 38 seats.
Fourth party
This means the coalition will need the support of a fourth party to get through controversial legislation – particularly in the field of tightening up immigration laws. The PVV agreed to support the cabinet on economic matters in return for a get-tough approach to foreigners.
On Saturday prime minister Mark Rutte said he is not nervous about Monday’s result. Later it emerged the VVD has dropped support for legislation which would scrap the blasphemy laws. This is widely seen as a concession to win the backing of the fundamentalist Christian group SGP in the senate.


At the same time, some commentators say there is mounting concern that the senate is becoming too politicised. The senate, which only holds debates on Tuesdays, is supposed to evaluate the quality of pending legislation.
ChristenUnie senator Egbert Schuurman told a radio show on Saturday it is already obvious that the senate, which is supposed to operate independently of government, has become more politicial.
Earlier this year, for example, the senate took the rare step of threatening to block legislation unless the cabinet softened its plans to increase taxes on theatre tickets.
The actual voting process on Monday is extremely complicated, with the votes of some provincial councillors worth more than others, depending on the size of the populations they represent. Some councillors also vote tactically and give their vote to another party.
In April, it emerged a non-aligned provincial councillor agreed to give his vote to the coalition after having a private meeting with the prime minister and PVV leader Geert Wilders. Non-aligned councillors had earlier agreed to support new party 50PLUS to an extra seat in the senate.
For more on the role of the senate and the way it is chosen, click here

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