Outrage as Labour blocks mayoral elections

23rd March 2005, Comments 0 comments

23 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Political anger erupted early Wednesday morning as the opposition Labour PvdA blocked crucial government legislation in the Senate that would have amended the Dutch Constitution to allow for direct mayoral elections.

23 March 2005

AMSTERDAM — Political anger erupted early Wednesday morning as the opposition Labour PvdA blocked crucial government legislation in the Senate that would have amended the Dutch Constitution to allow for direct mayoral elections.

PvdA Senator Ed van Thijn — a former mayor of Amsterdam — said the irreversibility of the process was the deciding factor for his party.  He was unsatisfied with concessions made by Democrat D66 Government Reform Minister Thom de Graaf, who initially wanted to introduce direct mayoral elections right across the country in 2006.

De Graaf told the Senate that elections could instead be phased in from next year, starting with the largest cities. Turning to another PvdA concern, he also promised that there was no plan during the current term of government to reassess mayors' police administration powers.

But Van Thijn was concerned in spite of the promised phasing that the D66 would push through the entire plan once the Constitution had been amended. The PvdA wants to delay direct mayoral elections until 2010 and was not convinced by the retention of police powers, newspaper 'De Volkskrant' reported.

Any constitutional change must be approved by a two-thirds majority in the house, requiring PvdA support for the D66 proposal. The vote fell short of the mark, with just 42 votes for compared with 31 votes against. The Socialist SP, green-left GroenLinks and small Christian parties also voted against the proposal.

The vote means the introduction of direct mayoral elections has been set back for several years. A new attempt to change the constitution needs the backing of two successive parliaments, news agency 'ANP' reported. Dutch mayors are currently appointed by the monarch, Queen Beatrix.

De Graaf said after the debate on Tuesday night he was "disappointed and angry" at the PvdA stance. He claimed the party had repeatedly raised new hurdles in recent days and he accused it of being "the champion" of regency.

Surrounded by a horde of journalists, De Graaf refused to speculate about the political consequences or his future as a government minister. "I will first have a night's sleep," he said.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende indicated he would return earlier than expected on Wednesday from a European Union summit in Brussels to meet with De Graaf. The enraged Christian Democrat CDA leader also said the PvdA vote was incomprehensible.

But Liberal VVD parliamentary leader Jozias van Aartsen said the crisis would only tighten the bond between the three coalition parties, news service 'NOS' reported.

The Senate vote was a major setback for the D66, which joined the coalition CDA and VVD government on the proviso that direct mayoral elections would be introduced.

D66 parliamentary leader Boris Dittrich said the PvdA had now lost its credibility. He said government reform would continue, but also asserted that there had been more than one reason for the D66 to join the cabinet, such as improving the education system.

PvdA leader Wouter Bos was also disappointed by the vote from his party colleagues in the Senate. He said De Graaf had offered significant concessions and claimed that PvdA senators had placed themselves in a vulnerable position. He pointed out that PvdA MPs had voted in favour of the proposal, newspaper 'De Telegraaf' reported.

He was surprised that De Graaf had not accepted a PvdA offer of allowing municipal councils to voluntarily implement mayoral elections in 2006 and then enforcing the rest to follow in 2010. De Graaf instead remained firm on his plan for a phased introduction starting with the largest cities.

But Bos also said the Senate vote would not delay the process for too long. He said a second proposal for mayoral elections would probably be lodged during the current term of government and that a second vote would occur after the 2007 election. This would pave the way for direct mayoral elections in 2010.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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