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A permanent citizens' council: The missing link in Dutch politics

Neighbouring countries have shown that when citizens are allowed to contribute their ideas, political discussions that have reached an impasse can be set in motion. Could this kind of ‘Third Chamber’ also be the solution for the Netherlands, where society and government seem to be increasingly losing sight of each other?

Wim Voermans

There does seem to be political will, says Wim Voermans, Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law, in Dutch online platform De Correspondent. ‘The cabinet is aware that it is losing the trust of citizens. Besides, there are numerous issues on which politics is in danger of getting bogged down: nitrogen emissions, housing, energy transition, the climate.’ At the moment, there’s also a lot of talk about young people, teachers and farmers, and not enough talking together with them. That’s a shame, because according to Voermans this kind of citizen participation is highly suited to the Netherlands. ‘People are keen to participate in society and make a contribution.’

Voermans believes that a permanent citizens’ council could be the missing link in Dutch politics: ‘Politics here is getting bogged down and polder agreements are leading to mistrust. That’s bickering and scheming behind the scenes, while citizens’ councils are transparent and inclusive. A permanent institute would also guarantee continuity.’

According to Voermans, not only citizens should be given a seat on the council. He argues for a mixed society council consisting of a combination of common and vested interests. ‘For example, three quarters of the members could be citizens. The rest of the seats would be for interest groups, institutions and a few government-appointed members.' According to Voermans, this would subsequently increase the likelihood that the established order will actually endorse the outcome of the ad hoc citizens' councils.

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