Annemarie van Gaal: Senatorial spring clean

The electoral system is due for a good spring clean, says Annemarie van Gaal

Not that you will have noticed, but spring is here: it’s time to throw open the windows and give the house a good clean. All those neglected nooks and crannies will have to be given a good dusting down.

Why not begin with our electoral system? It has been gathering dust for years and the democratic intentions with which is was once established are showing considerable wear and tear. Over the last few months it has been repeatedly suggested that the VVD and Labour strengthen the coalition by including more parties. This would give them a majority in the senate which means that cabinet draft proposals can be passed without any hiccups on the way.


At the moment the senate is sabotaging the coalition and threatening to blow this cabinet’s proposals out of the water, no matter what they are. But the senate isn’t the opposition and its role is not to blow proposals out of the water. At the end of last year CDA leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma warned the Christian Democratic senators would do everything in their power to thwart the new cabinet’s plans.

The CDA has taken a beating in the last elections but keeps nipping at the ankles of the coalition because it happens to have a little remaining power in a superannuated institution. ‘Past results are not a guarantee for future results’, as the disclaimer goes, but apparently this isn’t true of political parties. How democratic is that?

It can’t be right for a senator to vote the way his parliamentary party votes every single time. Aren’t we all individuals with opinions of our own? When do you trade your opinion for that of the parliamentary party? Once you’re an MP or a senator, or before that? That is the flaw in our system.


If a senator only represents an extra seat for the party and is used as another opposition vote as soon as that party is no longer part of the coalition, our system ceases to be constructive and becomes wasteful of the talents of individual MPs.

If we accept this then we could make do with 12 people in the senate, the representatives of the parliamentary parties, who all have a vote weighted according to the results of the last elections. The other 63 senators could go home.

This solution would save tens of millions of euros a year in remunerations and the cost of keeping up the whole senatorial circus. Fewer frustrations, clearer positions: a good spring clean that also saves money. I love it.


Annemarie van Gaal is an entrepreneur and head of publishing company AM media. She is also a writer and television personality.

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