Based on polls, the Provincial Council elections turn out to be a drama for the coalition parties. There is even talk of a record loss of seats. Of the 32 seats they currently have in the Senate, only 23 would remain. Fifteen too few for a majority and that has far-reaching consequences, thinks VVD prominent and former chairman of the Senate Ankie Broekers-Knol.
She is not afraid of the result, but she dares to call it a worrying situation. All the more so because getting a majority together is much more difficult. “If your minority is two or three seats, it usually works out,” she says. “But if you have to get 14 or 15 more, that’s a hell of a lot of work.”
The formidable opponent? The so-called ‘left cloud’, consisting of PvdA and GroenLinks. According to the polls, those parties – which have a partnership – have more than fourteen seats. Broekers-Knol sees no point in having to depend on it all the time. She thinks that if they are always resorted to to legislate, it is almost as if they are part of the coalition. “Then it gets a little complicated.”
Political relevance is increasing
Broekers-Knol believes that the political relevance of the Senate is increasing due to the impending political impasse. ‘Because it matters whether the government – which has a minority in the Senate – can get legislation passed or not.’
In addition, she emphasizes that in the past four years the Senate has only vetoed legislation in its entirety a handful of times. ‘It is a very harsh tool, and the Senate rarely uses it.’
Broekers-Knol dare not say whether the soon to be discussed nitrogen law can end up on the list of fallen laws. However, she thinks that the entire Senate should ‘think very carefully’ about the content of the nitrogen law. ‘And also what the government does with it,’ she says. ‘It may be that certain commitments are requested in the debate, so that it might be possible after all. It depends on what the result of the Senate will look like.’
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The situation is particularly precarious because the entire legislative process would have to start all over again, should the law actually be shot down. This in turn causes delays.
Despite the polls, Broekers-Knol would not want to change the way in which the Provincial Council – and therefore the Senate – are elected. She says it is important that the provinces are still represented in the Senate. ‘I find that way valuable, although at the same time I find it strange that when you’re in the voting booth for those Provincial Council elections, you don’t know who will be in the Senate.’
However, Broekers-Knol’s proposal to provide an electoral list for the Senate has never been widely accepted. And she regrets that. All the more so because according to her it is not a big effort.
However, she does not see a direct election for the Senate. And that has everything to do with a possible duplication with the House of Representatives. Broekers-Knol: ‘It is precisely this connection with the province via the Provincial Council that I find very valuable. And I don’t think that’s outdated.’