Choosing your government: Dutch vs British Politics

One of the joys of travels or going abroad for a longer period is that you learn new things. Things such as important as  food (no brainer obviously), language, history, culture, people and also politics. As I’ve visited quite a few countries and being interested in the things listed above, I started to make comparisons with my own country. There’s one particular thing that really keeps me interested and that is the difference between ‘my’ Dutch political system and that of the UK. So I’m going to do a little comparison here.

So why the the Netherlands and the UK? Those are the countries I’m most interested in and importantly, I know a lot about those countries. Also, the fact that these countries are practically neighbours only divided by the pond, makes it very interesting to me. Especially because they have a different electoral system and work on another level than the other.

I wanted to focus on two things: The elections and electoral system & The political system; how many parties are there? How does it work? Left/right conservative/progressive? Well you will find that out in a bit. But also let me state that I’m no expert, well my degree says so, but still I’m not the biggest expert you’ll find on this planet. So if my assumptions are wrong, please tell me in the comments below. I know quite some things, but not everything.

The Netherlands
Political System

So first that little cute country of drugs eh? Well we are much more than that, I can assure you. We also have cheese, al lot. And let’s be honest: how awesome is cheese?
But to not to be cheesy anymore (I’m stopping now), we also got this thing called politics and for me it’s clear as anything. But I realise the majority of my readers is from outside the Netherlands. So let me ‘educate’ you in the world of Dutch politics.

We are a constitutional monarchy, which simply means we have a monarch as of our state. It’s the king at the moment and his function within the state his is quite ceremonial. His only power is to agree or disagree to new laws, but in real life he never discards a law design as it leaves the two chambers.

Right the chambers are quite similar to the British system. We have the so called ‘Eerste Kamer’ and “Tweede Kamer’. You can compare them to the House of Lords and House of Commons in a way. Hold your horses with anger, I say you CAN compare them in some ways, I don’t say it is the same.
The ‘Tweede Kamer’ (second chamber) is chosen by the people (I will get back on that later) and the ‘Eerste Kamer’ (first chamber) is chosen by the elected members of the provincial parliaments. (I will also come back to that later). The ‘Eerste Kamer’ has got 75 members and the ‘Tweede Kamer’ has got 150 members, which leads to total of 225 which is called parliament.

Well this may seem something very familiar to this point, but here comes the different thing. At this moment we’ve got 14 parties in the Tweede Kamer. We are so fragmented in opinion that we have all these parties. A lot of them have merged together as well. This leaves you with enough choice to vote for the party that suits you the best and don’t have to make radical choices because you don’t agree with one point. One the other hand, it’s also very hard to make certain decisions. For example there’s always a coalition government. In fact this time we have a coalition of two parties and that is considered a big risk. It’s normal for Dutch standards to have a coalition of three parties or more.

The ideology of the parties can be best rated as going from Right to Left, I think. If you want to know which has my preference let me know and we can chat about that. But the parties all have different ideas and sometimes they are more categorised in the progressive-conservative spectrum. Here’s a list of the parties that are chosen into the ‘Tweede Kamer’ and with their number of seats:

  1. VVD (Party for freedom and democracy) Liberal and rightwing (40 seats)
  2. PVDA (Labour Party) Left (36)
  3. SP (Socialist Party) Left (15)
  4. CDA (Christian Party) Centre-right, it’s a fusion between two protestant parties and one catholic party. (13)
  5. D’66 (Democratic party) Centre-right, founded for more democratic chosen government bodies. (12)
  6. PVV (Party for freedom) Far right on immigration and Islam, socio-economic centre left. Geert Wilders is their founder and leader. (12)
  7. Christenunie( Christian Union) Centre, all protestant party (5)
  8. Groenlinks (Greenleft) Left, progressive. Comparison with the Green Party (4)
  9. SGP (Reformed party) Strong conservative protestants (3)
  10. Partij van de Dieren (Party for the Animals) Left (2)
  11. Voor Nederland ( For the Netherlands) spin off from PVV (2)
  12. DENK (THINK) spin off from PVDA (2)
  13. 50PLUS, mainly focussing on the older people, (1)
  14. Vrijzinnige partij (free thinking party) spin off from 50PLUS

Well elections are mostly the same in western countries. I say mostly and I don’t want to suggest that’s the same. But the proces more or less the same.
However we vote nationally. If you cast a vote, this vote is counted a vote for that party. The percentage that a party receives from the whole vote in the Netherlands is also the percentage that you get in the Tweede Kamer.

General Election results 2012

People eligible to vote: 12.689.810

Actual Voters: 9.462.223 (74,57%)
Voters staying home: 3.227.587 (25,43%)
Votes declared right: 9.424.235 (99,60%)
Votes declared false: 20.984 (0,22%)
Blanco votes: 17.004 (0,18%)
Votes needed for one seat: 62.829

This is the principle we vote for every election. The other elections are the local elections, the provincial elections and the elections for the Water Board (they are responsible for the watermanagement in every region in the Netherlands)

United Kingdom

The main thing I want to focus in the United Kingdom are two things: The way the House of Commons is elected and the so called two party system, which isn’t really a two party system. Mind you this is my analysis and the way I view things. So yeah, ‘ere it goes then!

The two party system as it’s called doesn’t really exist anymore in my opinion. It’s true that Labour and Conservatives are the two major parties, who call the shots. But others have grown in influence and numbers over the years: Liberal Democrats, UKIP, Green Party, Sinn Fein, Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru. – could we take a moment of respect for me, I can pronounce Plaid Cymru the right way – I know they are not all big in seats, but you can feel their influence grow. I could be very wrong too, but that’s my perception anyway.

I think a system where to parties are dominant and are quite the opposite of each other has both positive and negative consequences. Yes, it’s welcomed to have a new insight every 5, 10 or even 15 years. But I also think it feels like the one or the other for the voters. You could argue, that people could vote for the less big parties, but let’s be honest. People want the party they voted for, to actually achieve something and it’s normal for people to choose one of the big parties. They make a bigger chance of running the government.

I think we could better associate the ideology of British politics as conservative progressive, than left or right. Well the way I see left or right, because sometimes I read about these ideas and I think; Nah, this isn’t rightwing? Or the other way around. So yeah, let’s class it my way. *Thumbs up*

ALSO CAN WE PLEASE TALK A MOMENT ABOUT SHADOW CABINETS?! Okay, this is something I never understood. Shadow cabinets, mate. It made me raging like Begbie (WHO THE FUCK ARE YOUU) in Trainspotting – also one of my favourite films, do you know they are making a sequel? OMG – , I couldn’t put my finger on it. I shook heaven and earth, but yours truly has figured it out. I think haha.
I mean everyone has an opposition, why does it have to be a cabinet? But I suppose it’s quite efficient. You appoint a cabinet who has to be critical of the normal cabinet AND propose alternative programs and solutions. It’s not that bad of an idea really. Still the term shadow cabinet freaks me out fam.

The electoral system is different from the Dutch one. We call it a system of districts. Your man or woman represents a certain district and you choose that man or woman. The one with the most votes gets that seat. Together with all the other districts they form all the MP’s. So getting the most votes doesn’t always mean being the biggest party. Very interesting stuff indeed.


So in my opinion there are too many parties in the Dutch political system. There are too many to choose from. But I also think that there should be at least 4 or 5 big parties. Then you have enough choice and all the parties can make a difference when being elected. I’m not sure how I feel about coalitions though. It causes so much drama and you can’t possibly satisfy everyone. I haven’t made my mind up yet.

I think there is a lot to be said for the electoral system of the UK. I like the touch of voting for a MP from your district. It’s that personal thing voters can connect with and that person should be more approachable to fight for the district. But I also think that this system leads to some feeling of unfairness. You could easily get 5 million votes, but still not get a single seat in the House of Commons. That’s not entirely fair in my opinion.

I hope you liked what I wrote. I have NO IDEA if it was any good or interesting. I just wrote some stuff down I thought that was interesting. Let me know what you think of it!



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