Tag Archives: voting system

Rambling about political systems

Recently I’ve watched some YouTube videos from CGP-Grey about voting systems. (
And it got me thinking about my country’s (the Netherlands) voting system.
Please at least watch the Mixed Member Proportional Representation video:
My comments continue from there.

Now imagine you only vote for your favorite party and the seats are divided based on those votes only.
The whole group of parties is left to figure out how to make a majority. (Someone helps them with this though)

Last elections in the Netherlands this lasted for a good amount of time, because lots of small parties and nobody really getting a majority. (Actually parties will always have to work together as no one party gets the majority)
Basically imagine there are 2 democrat parties and 2 republic parties. The two of either side are not big enough to form the majority. So you have to somehow make a democrat/republic party to make government work.
Mind you that these are all different parties. All on different places on the political scale.

Basically people voted what they wanted, but there was no way to make a workable government out of it. There is a majority and an opposition. So you need a group of parties that agree to work together and form the majority.
1 voter votes on party A because it stands for X.
However because of the above problem, party A has to make a compromise on point X. Leaving voter 1 unhappy.
The problem is not just who represents the voter, but also what they represent.

Did I mention the Netherlands has 12 parties represented in parliament (house of representative + senate) and European Parliament? With 9 parties being represented in all 3?
Voters vote for the House of Representatives (among other bodies of government). It has 150 seats and basically represents the people, makes the rule together with the Senate (together forming the parliament called States-General) and has control over the government policy. Imagine 12 parties divided over 150 seats…. Yes some parties actually do just get 1.
Not going to get into the Senate as it isn’t directly voted for by the people.

I was doing this off the top of my head, now opened Wikipedia to add in some relevant translations. It lists the voting system, what a concept! It’s a Party-list proportional representation.

Okay so CGP-Grey mentioned the party list in his video. The idea here is that every party has to have a list of candidates, and voting can happen on any candidate and counts as a vote for the party. These votes determine the number of seats, 1/150th of the votes per seat obviously. Then people need to fill those seats, and that’s where the voting on people comes in, the people with the most votes (or in order of the list if no difference) fill the seats. Usually people vote on the first person or the one below, but theoretically it can be possible if a party gets one seat that the third person on the list gets it as they have majority of votes.

The Netherlands doesn’t just have 12 parties by the way… It’s an enormous list as you can basically start your own party if you wanted to. Doesn’t mean you can run to be in government, because you need to be registered.
Funny side note: your brother of three years old wants to start a political party in the Netherlands? There’s no rule saying he can’t. Yes even if he’s not Dutch and just three. You may need to help him with the official documents though!
There is a law involved, but my mobile phone won’t let me open it :( (what’s a computer? I use an iPad and an iPhone)

Anyway just having a party doesn’t mean you can join in the elections. There’s separate rules for that. Ok I can’t find the exact rules. But you do need money. 11,250 euro to be exact. If you don’t provide a candidate list on time you get it back, or if you get at least 75% of the votes needed for 1 seat at the elections. (Basically if you do this for fun you lose money)

Side note: to vote you don’t actually have to register if you’re a registered Dutch citizen. Which you have to be if you live in the Netherlands.
You vote for more than just the House of Representatives. 19 March we get to vote for municipals. It’s for the municipal councils by the way. Both national and local parties join in for those. My small town has a list of 5 parties, but really it’s three. List 2 and 4 are joining forces. Representing two parties this way. Also list 3 is two parties. Safe to say it doesn’t give as much choice as the national elections give me. Whether that is good or bad we’ll leave in the middle. On the national list I usually vote for the Party for the Animals. Yes there is such a thing. It has 2 seats in the House of Representatives.

PS. I have no interest in political parties or anything else political, but I get interested by the systems on top of which they work.
I wish I could say because we have more parties we don’t vote on a person, and partly this is true, but the leaders of each party are still the faces we see. And so in part it is about how they do publicly.

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Posted by on March 13, 2014 in Uncategorized


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