, translated from Dutch by the author, using Google Translate, but carefully editing its results.
For many years, there has been a huge fragmentation in Dutch politics. In the last parliamentary elections, on March 17, 2021, no less than 17 parties won seats in the House of Representatives. Due to internal quarrels and divisions, this number has grown to 21. The formation of a coalition government, consisting of four parties, was very difficult and took much too long. Meetings of the House often take up a lot of time, also because there are so many factions, all of which are entitled to speak in the House if they wish.
In many countries, with different systems, democracy does not function well. Those who criticise dictatorships should be able to point to a well-functioning democracy as an alternative. That’s not possible now. Therefore, improving democracy is of utmost importance, for the whole world and for the fate of humanity.
In September 2010 I came up with a solution whereby non-voters would count as a party faction, which would automatically support both the ruling coalition and the opposition. This would simplify and accelerate coalition government formation, and lead to a more effective government.
I saw a potential problem myself, in case malicious politicians would abuse the arrangement. But I thought parliamentarians were too serious for that, so it wasn’t a problem. Now, however, now that populism has such strong support, and there are even elected parliamentarians who espouse conspiracy theories, I am less reassured about that. That is why I now hardly still support that old proposal of mine.
For a long time I was against an electoral threshold. I felt that parties with a small following should also be able to make their voices heard in the House.
I now think that an electoral threshold of, say, 5%, like they have in Germany, is inevitable. This would result in a significant reduction in the number of factions. Due to the rise of the internet, dissidents can also make their voices heard without being represented in parliament.
But I go even further.
My new proposal is a merger of the British-American two-party system, the German electoral threshold, and the two-round French presidential elections.
I propose to keep the Dutch political system, which is similar to that of countries like Germany, Israel, Portugal, and Italy, largely as it is:
The head of state has a ceremonial function, but hardly any political power. Whether that head of state is a king or a president doesn’t really matter. (The link goes to a Dutch language article, for which no translation is planned.)
Political power is vested in ministers, headed by a prime minister. (There may also be deputy ministers or state secretaries.) This team of ministers seeks support from parliament. Parliament has the power to dismiss a minister or the entire government.
The judiciary is independent. Judges, parliament and government together form the Trias Politica, for a proper separation of powers.
Some political arrangements are disadvantageous:
In France, Russia and the United States, for example, the elected president has a lot of power. This is undesirable, because it serves opposition interests too little.
Separation of powers is great, but it should not lead to stagnation. In the United States, the president has power, but so have the House of Representatives and the Senate. Due to midterm elections, the composition of the two Houses of Congress is often different. The two-party system, as a result of the electoral system ‘first past the post’, or ‘winner takes all’, then often results in the president being unable to achieve anything in the second half of his term, because parliament blocks all his proposals.
In the Netherlands, the Senate is elected in a different way than the House of Representatives, namely indirectly by the Provincial Council. This, too, often leads to additional difficulties in forming and maintaining an effective governing coalition. Necessary decisions and measures cannot be taken or are seriously delayed.
In think in China they laugh at us democratic countries, because of that. China is a dictatorship. That is detestable, but it also means that there they CAN make decisions.
My proposal is: a unicameral parliament, no senate, a head of state with virtually no political power, Trias Politica, the executive power rests with a team of ministers that needs the support of parliament.
Parliament is elected by proportional representation, in two rounds. All parties can participate in the first round. In the second round, two weeks later, only the largest three parties from the first round can participate.
This has the effect of a substantial electoral threshold, but with time for reflection for voters. Anyone who sees the party of first preference eliminated in the first round can consider three different larger parties. The result of the second round determines the distribution of seats in parliament, even if it deviates from first round results achieved by the three remaining parties.
The parliament has an odd number of seats, for example 101. Because there are never more than three parties, a larger number of seats, such as the current 150 in the Netherlands, is not necessary. A good division of the work is also possible with 101 seats. Or 99 or 75.
Because coalition government formation is now quick and easy, the term of office can be reduced. Three years is long enough. Because there is no longer a senate, the role of the voters in the checks and balances becomes more important. The people must be able to vote again soon. So not five, not four, but only three years between parliamentary elections will do.
This system has an effect on party formation: you will not achieve much with a small party. So there is an incentive to merge smaller, similar parties into larger ones. The elections will be based on parties (which are legal associations with members), not on persons. Splits of factions in parliament, after the elections, will no longer be possible.
If an elected parliamentarian loses the confidence of the party, or can no longer identify with current party politics, he of she must leave the House, and will be replaced by the next candidate on the electoral list of the same party.
Mergers or splits of parties are effective as of the next election, not between the first and second round, and not during the parliamentary term.