Elections in the Netherlands
Learn more about Elections in the Netherlands
Elections in the Netherlands are held for six territorial levels: the European Union (beyond the scope of this article), the state, the 12 Provinces, the (currently 27) water boards, the 467 Municipalities and in some cities (such as Amsterdam) for neighbourhood councils (stadsdeelraden). Apart from elections, referenda are also held occasionally, a fairly recent phenomenon in Dutch politics. The most recent national election results and an overview of the resulting seat assignments and coalitions since WWII are shown at the bottom of this page.
At the national level, legislature is invested in the States-General (Staten-Generaal), which is bicameral. The Second Chamber (Tweede Kamer) has 150 members, elected for a four year term by proportional representation. Elections are also called after dissolution of the Second Chamber. All elections are direct, except for the First Chamber (Eerste Kamer), which has 75 members, elected for a four year term through the provincial councillors on the basis of the proportional representation at the provincial elections.
The Netherlands has a multi-party system, with numerous parties in which usually no one party ever gets an absolute majority of votes (except occasionally in very small municipalities, such as in Reiderland), so several parties must cooperate to form a coalition government. This usually includes the biggest party, with only three exceptions since WWII, in 1971, 1977 and 1982, when the PvdA was the biggest party but did not partake in the coalition.
Candidates at the elections of the Second Chamber are chosen from party lists resulting in proportional representation. There is no threshold for small parties to enter the second chamber because getting 1/150 of the votes results in getting one of the 150 seats in the chamber. The way representatives are elected is subject to debate however, as the Minister for Government Reform has put forth ideas for a new voting system based on an additional member system.
During the municipal elections of 2006, elections were electronic throughout the country. As a result, results were known before the end of the day, a mere two hours after the closing of the poll stations. For the national elections in november of that same year, however, several polling stations decided to return to paper and red pencil because of security issues with the voting machines.
The maximum parliamentary term is four years and elections are always held almost four years after the previous one. An exception is made if there is severe conflict between the Tweede Kamer and cabinet or after a cabinet crisis.
Every Dutch citizen who has reached the age of 18 is eligible to vote (actief kiesrecht) or to get elected as member of the Tweede Kamer (passief kiesrecht). Someone may be deprived of these rights if they are mentally incapable of making a reasoned choice or have lost their right to vote by court sentence. Two weeks before an election all voters receive a card, which is the evidence that one is a registered voter and must be handed in in order to vote. As of 1970, voting is not compulsory.
As described above the Second Chamber is elected using a system of open party lists, resulting in proportional representation.
Polls close at 21.00 and votes are called immediately. For national elections, the first results usually come in five minutes after the polls are closed (from the municipalities with the least inhabitants, Schiermonnikoog and Renswoude). The final results are known around midnight and officially announced the next morning, after which the 150 seats allocated.
 Seat assignment
The electorate in the Netherlands during the last elections in 2003 was 12,076,711, of whom 80% voted, resulting in 9,666,602 votes (with 12,127 invalid votes). With 150 seats, that means a quota of 64,444, the so called Hare quota. Since the electoral threshold is equal to the quota, that is also the number of votes required to get one seat in the Tweede Kamer, basically meaning there is no threshold.
However, the way residual seats are assigned, by using the D'Hondt method, a highest averages method, means that smaller parties are unlikely to get one, while larger parties have a bigger chance of getting one and may even get more than one. Firstly, numbers of seats are always rounded down, meaning there are always residual seats and parties that didn't reach the quota don't get any seats (they don't take part in the following calculation). Next, the number of votes is divided by the assigned seats plus one. The party with the highest resulting number then gets one extra seat. Next, the process is repeated, with the party that got the extra seat participating again, albeit with a number one higher because they got an extra seat (the calculation stays the same for the other parties, which got no extra seat). But later on in the process, that party may get another extra seat. And since there are many parties in the Tweede Kamer, this is not unlikely to happen.
- For example, in 2003 (see table below), the three biggest parties each got two of the six residual seats, even the VVD (150*0.179=26.85, but they got 28 seats, representing 18.7% of the seats in stead of 17.9%), whereas the Socialist Party got none (150*0.063 = 9.45, but they got only 9 seats, representing 6% of the seats in stead of 6.3%).
When the largest party gets over 35% of the votes and is considerably bigger than the next biggest party, that party may even get as much as 3 or even 4 residual seats. This has, however, never happened. The percentage of votes for the biggest party is usually around 30% and rarely goes far beyond that. The largest result ever was at the 1989 elections, when CDA got 35.3% of the votes. Even then, however, CDA only got two residual seats because next biggest party (PvdA) had 31.9% of the votes. The biggest difference between the first and second party was at the 2002 elections, the most dramatic elections in Dutch history, when especially PvdA lost many votes to LPF, which became second biggest after CDA with 17.0% of the votes. CDA, however, had only 27.9% of the votes and therefore still only got 2 residual seats.
Parties may, however, form an alliance (lijstencombinatie), in which case they participate in the above calculations as one party and get a bigger chance of gaining residual seats (or getting one in the first place). The division of those seats between those parties is, however, done in a different way, by using the largest remainder method, which favours the smaller parties rather than the bigger ones if there is a considerable difference in size. But the overall advantage is greatest for small parties of comparable size.
 Assigning people to seats
After seats are assigned to the parties, people have to be assigned to the seats. The Netherlands has 19 electoral districts, in each of them a party can use different lists. In theory, a party can place different candidates on each of the 19 different lists. However, it is usual that at least the candidate ranked first on the list is the same person throughout the country. It is even quite common that parties use the same list in every district, or vary only the last five candidates per district. Usually these five candidates are locally well known politicians, parties hope to attract extra votes with these candidates. However, because of their low position on the list, chances are low that these local candidates are elected.
The first step in the process of assigning people to the seats is calculating how many seats each of the different lists of a party gets, by adding the number of votes on each of the different lists together. If a party used the same list in more than one electoral district, these lists are seen as one list. Seat assignment to the different lists is done by using the largest remainder method.
The second step is calculating which candidate received on his or her own more votes than 25% of the electoral quota, by adding up all votes for a particular candidate on the different lists. These candidates are declared elected independent of the list order, and get one of the seats of the list where they received the most votes. If more candidates are elected on a list than the list received seats, the candidate with the lowest total number of votes is transferred to the list where he had his second best result.
As a third step, the remaining seats (if there are any) are assigned to the remaining candidates, based on their order on the list. When candidates are elected way on more than one list this way, the candidate gets the seat on the list where he or she received the most votes. This is continued until every seat is assigned. If one of these elected candidates later decides to leave parliament, then his seat is assigned to the next person on the list of the district he 'represents'.
An exception to the above exists in the form of lijstduwers ('list pushers'), famous people (former politicians, but also sports people) who are put on the candidate list but will not accept a seat when they get enough votes for one. During the municipal elections in 2006 professor Joop van Holsteyn criticised this practise, saying someone on a candidate list should also be a serious candidate. This view is shared by other politicologists, but less so by politicians, who say that lijstduwers are on the list not to get elected but to show that they support that party and that the fact that they are at the bottom of the list makes it obvious they are not intended to get a seat. Still, writer Ronald Giphart (1998) and skater Hilbert van der Duim (1994) got a city council seat, which Giphart refused to fill. Professor Rudy Andeweg says this is close to fraud because the law requires someone on the candidate list to declare in writing to be willing to fill a seat.
 Latest national election
Only parties that got seats are listed, which is why the vote-percentage total is not 100.
|Parties||List leader||Votes||Seats||Vote %||Seat %|
|Christian Democratic Appeal |
(Christen-Democratisch Appèl, CDA)
|Jan Peter Balkenende||2,608,573||41||26.5||27.3|
|Labour Party |
(Partij van de Arbeid, PvdA)
|Socialist Party |
(Socialistische Partij, SP)
|People's Party for Freedom and Democracy |
(Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD)
|Party for Freedom |
(Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV)
|Democrats 66 |
(Democraten 66, D66)
|Party for the Animals |
(Partij voor de Dieren, PvdD)
|Reformed Political Party |
(Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, SGP)
|Bas van der Vlies||153,266||2||1.6||1.3|
|Other / Blanco||–||–|
|Source: Template:Cite web|
The Senate is elected indirectly, by the provincial councillors (who are themselves chosen in direct elections). It is composed as follows:
|Christian Democratic Appeal (Christen-Democratisch Appèl)||23|
|Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid)||19|
|People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie)||15|
|Green Left (GroenLinks)||5|
|Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij)||4|
|Democrats 66 (Democraten 66)||3|
|Christian Union (ChristenUnie)||2|
|Political Reformed Party (Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij)||2|
|List Pim Fortuyn (Lijst Pim Fortuyn)||1|
|Independent Senate Group (Onafhankelijke Senaatsfractie)||1|
 Latest municipal elections
 Next elections
The next elections in the Netherlands are planned for (in chronological order):
- Provinces: 7 March 2007
- First chamber (indirect elections): 29 May 2007
- EU: 2009
- Municipalities: 2010
 Previous election results
The following tables show the election results and cabinets since 1945.
[blank] = not enough votes to get a seat in government
- = party didn't exist then or did not participate nationally
= = not applicable
bold = party in cabinet
red = percentage of seats of the cabinet. (Note that the other numbers are seats, not percentages.)
GrL = Groen Links
ChU = Christen Unie
LN = Leefbaar Nederland
U55 = Unie 55+
|82||van Agt III||44||26||48||-||17||43||-||-||3||2||1||-||3||3||3||-|
|81-82||van Agt II||44||26||48||-||17||73||-||-||3||2||1||-||3||3||3||-||-|
|77-81||van Agt I||53||28||49||-||8||51||-||-||3||1||-||-||3||1||2||-||1||1|
LW = Lijst Welter
|after expansion from 100 to 150 seats||50||13||49||15||13||-||-||-||7||-||3||-||-||-|
|45-46||Schermerhorn - Drees (no elections - appointed by queen)|
|39-45||War cabinets without elections|
 See also
- Politics of the Netherlands
- Electoral calendar
- Electoral system
- List of democracy and elections-related topics
 External links
- Adam Carr's Election Archive
- latest election (with party logos)
- election results, national results since 1850 and results of provincial elections 2nd half 20th century
- Dutch election results, national results since 1918, by province.
|Elections in the Netherlands|
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