The Tweede Kamer is the second chamber or lower house of the Staten-Generaal[?], the parliament in the Netherlands. It has 150 seats which are filled through elections using a party-list proportional representation system. The building of the Tweede Kamer is located in The Hague.
The Tweede Kamer is the main chamber of parliament, where discussion of proposed legislation and review of the actions of the cabinet takes place. The cabinet, consisting of the Prime Minister, other ministers and state secretaries is appointed by the Monarch of the Netherlands. In practice, the parties of the Tweede Kamer form a governing coalition and the coalition chooses the cabinet. It is not possible for somebody to be a member of both parliament and cabinet, except in the special case where the cabinet post is shortly to expire.
The maximum duration of the Tweede Kamer is four years. Anybody eligible to vote in the Netherlands also has the right to establish a political party and contest elections for the Tweede Kamer (see political parties of the Netherlands). Elections are called when the sitting period of the Kamer expires or when no governing coalition can be formed. The parties wanting to take part must register 43 days before the elections, supplying a list of at least 30 candidates. Parties that don't have any sitting candidates in the chamber must also pay a deposit (11,250 euro for the January 2003 elections) and provide 30 signatures of support from residents of each of the 19 electoral districts in which they want to collect votes. The candidate lists are placed in the hands of the voters at least 14 days before the election. Each candidate list is numbered, with the person in the first position known as the lijsttrekker. The lijsttrekker is usually appointed by the party to lead its election campaign. The lijsttrekker of the party receiving the most seats will often become the Prime Minister.
Most citizens and residents of the Netherlands aged 18 or over can vote. A single vote can be placed on any of the candidates. Many voters select one of the lijsttrekkers (Balkenende received 2,393,802 of the CDA's 2,763,480 votes in the January 2003 elections), but alternatively can place a preference vote for a candidate lower on the list.
Once the election results are known, the seats are allocated to the parties. The number of valid national votes cast is divided by 150, the number of seats available, to give a threshold for each seat. Each party's number of votes is divided by this threshold to give an initial number of seats. Any party that received fewer votes than the threshold (i.e., less than one in 150 of the total votes cast) fails to gain representation in the Kamer. Any party that received more than 75% of the threshold will have its deposit refunded. After the initial seats are allocated, the allocation of the remainder seats will follow one of two methods. If the number of remainder seats is greater than 19, a method of greatest averages is used, otherwise a method of greatest surplusses. Parties can agree between themselves to combine their lists (apparently this affects only the allocation of remainder seats.)
Once the number of seats allocated to each party is known, in general they are allocated to candiates in the order that they appear on the party's list. (Hence, before the elections, the candidates near the top may be described as in an electable position, depending on the number of seats that the party is likely to obtain.) If a candidate can not take up the position in parliament (e.g., if they become a minister, decide not to enter parliament, or later resign) then the next candidate on the list takes their place. However at this state the preference votes are also taken into account. If a candidate receives more than one quarter of the threshold then they are considered elected in their own right, jumping over candidates who where placed higher on the list. In the January 2003 elections two candidates received seats exclusively through preference votes.
Elections were held on January 22, 2003 after the resignation of the first Balkenende cabinet. The campaign became a contest between between CDA and PvdA to become the largest party. The PvdA's lijsttrekker, Wouter Bos, declared that he would not become Prime Minister if his party won: the party's candidate was not announced until a few days before the election - Job Cohen[?], the mayor of Amsterdam, who did not take part in the campaign.
The allocation of the 150 seats, with the number of votes in parentheses, was:
|Christen Democratisch Appèl (CDA)||44 (2,763,480)|
|Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA)||42 (2,631,363)|
|Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD)||28 (1,728,707)|
|Socialistische Partij[?] (SP)||9 (609,723)|
|Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF)||8 (549,975)|
|GroenLinks (GL)||8 (495,802)|
|Democraten 66 (D66)||6 (393,333)|
|ChristenUnie (CU)||3 (204,694)|
|Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP)||2 (150,305)|
The other parties contesting the elections were: Partij voor de Dieren[?] (47,754), Leefbaar Nederland (38,894), Partij van de Toekomst[?] (13,845), LijstRatelband.nl[?] (9,045), Duurzaam Nederland[?] (7,271), Nieuwe Communistische Partij[?] (4,854), de Conservatieven.nl[?] (2,521), Vooruitstrevende Integratie Partij[?] (1,623), Alliantie voor Vernieuwing en Democratie[?] (990) and Lijst Veldhoen[?] (296). All of these parties lost their deposit, except for LN which as a sitting party didn't have to pay it.
The total votes cast was 9,654,475, giving a threshold required for a seat of 64,363.167. GL and SP combined their lists for the calculations, as did CU and SGP. The two candidates obtaining seats only because of preference votes were H.P.A. Nawijn (LPF) (21,209) and J.C. Huizinga-Heringa (CU) (19,650).
The CDA would prefer to continue its current right-wing coalition with the VVD, but they would need extra seats from a small party. However from the CDA have been concerns that a renewed coalition with LPF would lack credibility with voters, while it is not clear if D66 would agree to support a coalition. The other likely coalition is of PvdA and CDA, which the PvdA has enthusiasm for. On January 24, Queen Beatrix asked Piet Hein Donner[?] (minister of justice for the CDA in the previous cabinet) to lead the coalition negotiations.
The campaign for the May 15, 2002 elections was dominated by Pim Fortuyn, first as lijsttrekker of Leefbaar Nederland, then for his own party, and finally the overshadowing of the elections by his murder shortly before the elections. The elections were not rescheduled and it was too late to adjust the party list, so Fortuyn became a posthumous candidate.
The allocation of the 150 seats was:
|Christen Democratisch Appèl (CDA)||43|
|Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF)||26|
|Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie (VVD)||24|
|Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA)||23|
|Socialistische Partij[?] (SP)||9|
|Democraten 66 (D66)||7|
|Staatkundig Gereformeerde Partij (SGP)||2|
|Leefbaar Nederland (LN)||2|
The CDA, LPF and VVD formed the first Balkenende cabinet. In the following months the LPF lost three seats when members resigned from the party, forming two additional parliamentary factions.