More MPs exit politics, does inexperience threaten parliament?

Photo: Dutch News

So far at least 19 of the 150 MPs in the Dutch lower house of parliament have announced that they will not stand for election in the November 2023 vote and experts are concerned about the impact on the way the Tweede Kamer functions.

Parliamentary historian Bert van den Braak told RTL Nieuws that the high number of departures is not yet a record, but is a worrying trend. “The MPs who remain are increasingly inexperienced and parliament’s collective memory is getting smaller,” he said. 

MPs currently in parliament have an average of five years and three months of service behind them, but after the November vote that will go down sharply. Insiders expect around half those winning seats in the general election will be new to The Hague. 

“Experienced MPs don’t have to reinvent the wheel all the time,” said Van den Braak, who estimates it takes around four years to properly get to grips with the job. “They know how lawmaking works and the big issues, and they have a good network. And they can teach less experienced MPs.”

Leiden University lecturer Simon Otjes told television current affairs show EenVandaag that new MPs spend their first period learning how the profession works. “They are less good at legislating, at taking a critical look at things and asking questions,” he said.

The Dutch system, which leads to major shifts in party support, also means that the job of MP is somewhat precarious, he points out.  

“We also have a very small parliament,” says Otjes. “That means politicians have a lot of work to do. If you are [one of five] members of parliament for ChristenUnie, for example, you will have to pick up 20% of the political portfolios.”

The way debates are conducted and the way people react to politicians on social media also make it “relatively unattractive” to be an MP, he said. 

MPs who have said they are leaving often quote the pressure of work, the wish to spend more time with family and the negative impact of social media. 

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