Tweede Kamer

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The Tweede Kamer ("second chamber") is the lower house of the Staten-Generaal, the parliament in the Netherlands. It has 150 seats which are filled through elections using a party-list proportional representation system. The Tweede Kamer sits in The Hague.


[edit] Functions

The Tweede Kamer is the main chamber of parliament, where discussion of proposed legislation and review of the actions of the cabinet takes place. Both the cabinet and the Tweede Kamer itself have the right to propose legislation; the Tweede Kamer discusses it and, if adopted by a majority decision, sends it on to the senate.

Review of the actions of the cabinet takes the form of formal interrogations, which may result in motions urging the cabinet to take, or refrain from, certain actions. It is not possible for somebody to be a member of both parliament and cabinet, except if this is a caretaker cabinet that has not yet been succeeded when a new Tweede Kamer is sworn in.

The Tweede Kamer is also responsible for the first selection of judges to the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad der Nederlanden). It will submit a list of three names for every vacant position to the Government.

Furthermore, it elects the Dutch Ombudsman and his subsidiaries.

[edit] Elections

The maximum duration of the Tweede Kamer is four years. Anybody eligible to vote in the Netherlands also has the right to establish a political party and contest elections for the Tweede Kamer (see political parties of the Netherlands). Elections are called when the government has lost the parliament's confidence, the government coalition has broken down, the sitting period of the Kamer expired or when no governing coalition can be formed. The parties wanting to take part must register 43 days before the elections, supplying a list of at least 30 candidates. Parties that do not have any sitting candidates in the chamber must also pay a deposit (11,250 euro for the January 2003 elections, for all districts together) and provide 30 signatures of support from residents of each of the 19 electoral districts in which they want to collect votes. The candidate lists are placed in the hands of the voters at least 14 days before the election. Two or more parties can agree to combine their lists, which increases the chance to win a remainder seat. Each candidate list is numbered, with the person in the first position known as the lijsttrekkers (key member). The lijsttrekker is usually appointed by the party to lead its election campaign. The lijsttrekker of the party receiving the most seats will often become the Prime Minister.

Citizens of the Netherlands aged 18 or over have the right to vote; excluded can only be those serving a prison term of more than one year. A single vote can be placed on any of the candidates. Many voters select one of the lijsttrekkers. (Balkenende for example received 2,393,802 of the CDA's 2,763,480 votes in the January 2003 elections), but alternatively can place a preference vote for a candidate lower on the list.

Once the election results are known, the seats are allocated to the parties. The number of valid national votes cast is divided by 150, the number of seats available, to give a threshold for each seat. Each party's number of votes is divided by this threshold to give an initial number of seats. Any party that received fewer votes than the threshold (i.e., less than one in 150 of the total votes cast) fails to gain representation in the Kamer. Any party that received more than 75% of the threshold will have its deposit refunded. After the initial seats are allocated, the remainder seats are allocated using the D'Hondt method of largest averages.

Once the number of seats allocated to each party is known, in general they are allocated to candidates in the order that they appear on the party's list. (Hence, before the elections, the candidates near the top may be described as in an electable position, depending on the number of seats that the party is likely to obtain.) If a candidate can not take up the position in parliament (e.g., if they become a minister, decide not to enter parliament, or later resign) then the next candidate on the list takes their place. However at this state the preference votes are also taken into account. If a candidate receives more than one quarter of the threshold then they are considered elected in their own right, jumping over candidates who where placed higher on the list. In the January 2003 elections two candidates received seats exclusively through preference votes.

After all seats are allocated a government is formed, (usually) based in a majority of the seats. The queen appoints an informateur, who checks out possible coalitions, and formateur, who leads formation negotiations. At the end of the negotiations, the formateur becomes prime minister. Although usually from the largest party in parliament, these appointments are arguably among the largest powers the queen holds in Dutch politics. All cabinet members must resign from parliament, as the constitution does not allow a cabinet member to hold a seat in the Tweede Kamer.

There is no minimum percentage of votes required to gain a seat in the Tweede Kamer. In combination with a nationwide one-man-one-vote system (i.e. no districts) it is possible to gain one of the 150 seats with as little as two-thirds of a percent of the votes. Because there are no districts these two-thirds of a percentage can be obtained anywhere throughout the country. As a result, it is nearly impossible for a single party to gain an absolute majority, and all Dutch governments in over a century have been coalitions between two or more parties.

[edit] Current situation

As a result of the elections held on November 22 2006, the allocation of the 150 seats is:

[discuss] – [edit]
Summary of the 22 November 2006 Netherlands Second Chamber election results
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)
Wouter Bos 2,085,077 33 21.2 21.3
Socialist Party
(Socialistische Partij, SP)
Jan Marijnissen 1,630,803 25 16.6 17.3
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy
(Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie, VVD)
Mark Rutte 1,443,312 22 14.6 14.7
Party for Freedom
(Partij voor de Vrijheid, PVV)
Geert Wilders 579,490 9 5.9 6.0
(GroenLinks, GL)
Femke Halsema 453,054 7 4.6 4.7
(ChristenUnie, CU)
André Rouvoet 390,969 6 4.0 4.0
Democrats 66
(Democraten 66, D66)
Alexander Pechtold 193,232 3 2.0 2.0
Party for the Animals
(Partij voor de Dieren, PvdD)
Marianne Thieme 179,988 2 1.8 1.3
Reformed Political Party
(Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij, SGP)
Bas van der Vlies 153,266 2 1.6 1.3
Other / Blanco
Total 9,838,683 150 100.0 100.0
Source: Template:Cite web

[edit] Previous situation

Elections were held on January 22, 2003 after the resignation of the first Balkenende cabinet. The PvdA's lijsttrekker, Wouter Bos, declared that he would not become Prime Minister if his party lost: the party's candidate was not announced until a few days before the election - Job Cohen, the mayor of Amsterdam, who did not take part in the campaign. The negotiations following the election were lengthy and resulted in a coalition of CDA, VVD and D66 and the second Balkenende cabinet.

[discuss] – [edit]
Summary of the 22 January 2003 Netherlands Second Chamber election results
Parties Lijsttrekker Votes Seats Vote % Seat %
Christian Democratic Appeal (Christen-Democratisch Appèl) Jan Peter Balkenende 2,763,480 44 28.6 29.3
Labour Party (Partij van de Arbeid) Wouter Bos 2,631,363 42 27.3 28.0
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie) Gerrit Zalm 1,728,707 28 17.9 18.7
Socialist Party (Socialistische Partij) Jan Marijnissen 609,723 9 6.3 6.0
List Pim Fortuyn (Lijst Pim Fortuyn) Mat Herben 549,975 8 5.7 5.3
GreenLeft (GroenLinks) Femke Halsema 495,802 8 5.1 5.3
Democrats 66 (Democraten 66) Thom de Graaf 393,333 6 4.1 4.0
Christian Union (ChristenUnie) André Rouvoet 204,694 3 2.1 2.0
Political Reformed Party (Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij) Bas van der Vlies 150,305 2 1.6 1.3
Total (turnout 80.0 %) 9,654,475 150 98.7 100.0

The other parties contesting the elections were: Partij voor de Dieren (47,754), Leefbaar Nederland (38,894), Partij van de Toekomst (13,845), (9,045), Duurzaam Nederland (7,271), Nieuwe Communistische Partij-NCPN (4,854), de (2,521), Vooruitstrevende Integratie Partij (1,623), Alliantie voor Vernieuwing en Democratie (990) and Lijst Veldhoen (296). All of these parties lost their deposit, except for LN which as a sitting party didn't have to pay it.

The total votes cast was 9,654,475, giving a threshold required for a seat of 64,363.167. GL and SP combined their lists for the calculations, as did CU and SGP. The two candidates obtaining seats only because of preference votes were H.P.A. Nawijn (LPF) (21,209) and J.C. Huizinga-Heringa (CU) (19,650).

The Socialistische Partij lost one seat in February 2004 when it expelled Ali Lazrak from its faction. Lazrak decided to continue as a one-man faction.
In August 2004 the entire LPF faction resigned from their party, due to internal politics within the party. They remained as an independent faction, continuing to use the name LPF.
On the 2nd of September 2004 the VVD also lost a seat when Geert Wilders left the faction. He too decided to continue as a one-man faction. In 2005, Hilbrand Nawijn, former Minister without Portfolio for Immigration and Integration in the first Balkenende Cabinet, departed from the LPF to become the third one-man-faction in the chamber. On June 7 2006, Gonny van Oudenallen was installed as successor of Margot Kraneveldt, who retired from parliament and stepped over to the PvdA. Although on the LPF list for the 2003 elections, Oudenallen will sit as a one-woman faction. On August 16, 2006, LPF party leader Gerard van As stepped over to Hilbrand Nawijn's faction. On September 6, 2006, Anton van Schijndel was removed from the VVD faction. He is now part of a two member faction with Joost Eerdmans, who was removed. from the LPF on September 20, 2006.

A new chairman of the Tweede Kamer will be elected on December 6, 2006. The previous chairman (2002-2006) was Frans Weisglas, who retired on November 29, 2006.

Balkenende II resigned in May 2006.

[edit] Historical periods

representation per party 1946-

To give an overview of the longer history of the second chamber, the figure to the right shows the seat distribution in the Dutch second chamber from the first general elections after WWII (1946), to the current situation. Until 1956, there were 100 seats. This was expanded to 150 seats, which is the current number.

The left wing parties are on the bottom, the christian parties in the center, with the right wing parties closer to the top. Occasionally one (or few) issue parties have arisen that are shown at the extreme top.

Vertical lines indicate general elections. Although in principle every four years, the necessary coalition governments do not always finish their term without a governmental crisis, which is often followed by new elections. Hence the regular periods numbering less than four years.

[edit] Trivia

Tweede Kamer is also the name of a well known and respected Coffeeshop in Amsterdam.

[edit] External links

fr:Tweede Kamer nl:Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal

Tweede Kamer

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