Published On: Mon, Sep 26th, 2022

Dutch democracy

By Hilbert Haar

Kadushi, the weekly column on the website of DossierKoninkrijksRelaties.nl, touched on a sensitive issue last week: the value of democracy and the question whether the Caribbean countries still want to share the Kingdom with the Netherlands where everything under the sun seems possible in the name of democracy.

Damn good question, but before criticizing others, St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba should have the courage to examine how they deal with the powers given to them by a flawed democratic system.

Kadushi neatly sums up a series of Dutch failures: the child allowance scandal that financially ruined thousands of families with foreign-sounding names, the abandonment of people in the earthquake-stricken province of Groningen, and asylum seekers that are forced to sleep outside for lack of proper accommodation.

“Maybe the Kingdom is too democratic,” Kadushi writes. “And maybe democracy is its own worst enemy because liberties are anchored so solidly that it becomes easy for those who willingly want to undermine the constitutional state.”

But what is a democracy exactly? One definition says that this is system whereby the people have the power through direct participation or through periodic elections. Human rights and the equality of all citizens are central to a democracy.

So how are we doing? Kadushi bemoans the rise of extreme-right politicians like Geert Wilders and Thierry Baudet. “Kadushi wondered how much trust a people deserves when so many of them vote for brownshirts.” (A reference to Nazi-Germany).

Kadushi furthermore wonders how it is possible that “a rancid little club of conspiracy theorists” like Ongehoord Nederland obtained a broadcasting permit.

The answer to this and many other questions related to a democracy is simple: the rules. To obtain a broadcasting permit, an organization needs to have at leads 50,000 members of 16 years or older who have paid their contribution. So if you find 50,000 people supporting any concept of broadcasting, you are in business.

You don’t have to like Ongehoord Nederland, you don’t even have to watch their programs. But if these people meet the requirements there is nothing that can stop them.

A similar question comes up every now and then about fiscal constructions used by large corporations with one thing in mind: paying as little taxes as possible. How do they do it? They apply existing legislation. And who is responsible for that legislation? The government and the parliament of a country. And who is responsible for the composition of the parliament and the government? Right: the people.

Democracy is a system that only works properly if everybody plays by the rules. I hear many complaints about politicians who win a seat in parliament on the strength of a party list and who then go on to declare themselves independent. Is this desirable? No.

Then why does it happen? Because the legislator (the parliament) allows this and the government does nothing to change the system. So in St. Maarten we are in a quagmire of our own making. Based on results, (almost) everybody is okay with it, otherwise somebody would take the initiative to create the appropriate changes.

Therefore, looking at the way democracy functions in the Netherlands and wondering whether this is the Kingdom St. Maarten wants to be a part of, is in my opinion the wrong question. It is too easy to point fingers at others and at the same time ignore your own shortcomings.

It could take a considerable amount of time, but only when St. Maarten has cleaned up its own house has it earned the right to criticize others.


Related articles:
Column Kadushi DossierKoninkrijksrelaties.nl