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Stick-handling Governance Renewal minister De Graaf resigns post after defeat

First Chamber hands coalition a crisis

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE – The First Chamber of Dutch parliament recently defeated legislation, which would have added mayoralty contests to the country’s municipal elections. The progressive liberal wing in Dutch politics, organized in the D66 party, and so named after its year of origin 1966, had come very close to clinching a majority vote in both chambers of Dutch parliament for what often was billed as a crown jewel in its achievements.

D66’s minister for Governance Renewal, Tom de Graaf, who recently had criss-crossed the country for about ten days during which he made nearly forty stops to discuss the elected mayoralty, promptly resigned his post in the Balkenende coalition cabinet. His D66 cabinet colleagues stayed pending a redraft of the coalition agreement and input from a party conference.

De Graaf was denied the crucial support of an increasingly skeptical Dutch Labour Party (PvdA). In the weeks before the First Chamber vote, more and more questions arose about the phasing in of the plan, which originally applied to all the municipalities at the same time. In the face of opposition, De Graaf tinkered with his legislation, to gain broader support. Instead, he highlighted more flaws and thus stiffened opposition.

De Graaf’s tour revealed that the proposals lacked widespread support. In addition to the mayoralty proposal, D66 also campaigned for electoral innovations for the Second as well as the First Chamber. The smallest of three coalition parties, D66 seeks to entrench direct democracy.

In an effort to preserve the coalition, a renewed accord has been reached for ongoing Governance Renewal. It proposes to change the constitution to include the mayoral electoral reform as well as enhancement of the minister-president’s office, referendums and citizen initiatives, access to government information, and the relations between the various levels of government. D66 leader Dittrich first wants to survey the level of support for such innovations. Other areas of change in the accord include innovations in education and the media.

Currently, a mayor in the Netherlands receives a six-year renewable appointment by the Crown after an evaluative procedure, which involves the local municipal council, the Queen’s provincial commissioner and the cabinet. At the discretion of council, a non-binding but rarely used public consultation may be held as well.