On 15 March 2017, the Netherlands holds its parliamentary elections. Everyone over the age of 18 holding Dutch citizenship can vote. While those without the Dutch nationality are not eligible to vote (though may be eligible to vote in local and European elections), there are other ways to get involved, for example by volunteering for a party or by attending talks and debates.
Dutch electoral system
The Dutch electoral system differs from – for example – the UK and the US systems in that it is not a majority system, but one of proportional representation. Put simply, parties get seats in parliament according to the percentage of people that voted for them, as long as they cross a minimum threshold. In practice, this means that parties need to form coalitions in order to achieve the majority required to form a government. The vote is national – there are no constituencies or electoral districts.
Playing a part in democracy
Even if you aren’t entitled to vote in the Dutch general election of 2017, expats and international residents can get involved with the political system. If you already affiliate yourself with one particular political party, check for volunteering options, such as handing out flyers or helping at events. If you care about politics in your community or city, look for events happening in the run-up to the election – naturally, the majority will be held in Dutch, but you can likely raise specific questions in English.
Larger political debates and events in Amsterdam can be typically be found at locations such as Pakhuis de Zwijger, De Balie, Spui25 and De Nieuwe Liefde. An up-to-date list of events can be found here (primarily in Dutch).
'Locally Speaking' event for expats
Expats hoping to learn about the basics of the Dutch political system and the major issues of this election can attend the ‘Locally Speaking’ event at De Nieuwe Liefde on Thursday, 9 March. It features special guests from the political scene, as well as other regular insights into Amsterdam life, and takes place in English.
The future of business and startups
Have you come to Amsterdam to start a business and want to have a say in the political process? Check out the Startup Election Debate at B.Amsterdam, also on Thursday, 9 March, and pose a question to the political guests attending.
Are you eligible to vote through Dutch citizenship but aren’t completely fluent in Dutch? Or perhaps you simply wish to stay on top of the political news in the Netherlands? Online news outlets such as DutchNews.nl and the NL Times summarise the nation’s major news items in English every day. In addition, The Guardian has published an in-depth overview of the Dutch general election 2017, while the BBC is also summarising major news events.
In 2017, the Dutch political landscape is more fragmented than ever before, and 28 parties in total are up for election. Currently in government is a coalition of prime minister Mark Rutte’s conservative VVD and the centre-left PvdA. Find an overview of the biggest parties below.
- VVD – the liberal-conservative party of current prime minister Mark Rutte
- PvdA – centre-left social democrats; currently in government in a coalition with the VVD
- CDA – Christian democrats (website in Dutch)
- D66 – liberal-progressive party (website in Dutch)
- SP – socialist party (SP)
- GL (GroenLinks) – Green-left
A broader list of participating parties in 2017 is available here (summaries in Dutch).