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Universal suffrage was introduced in the Netherlands in 1919. Every Dutch national aged 18 or over now has the right to vote, as well as the right to stand for election as a member of the House of Representatives. The Constitution grants every Dutch citizen these rights.

Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands: article 4 Every Dutch national shall have an equal right to elect the members of the general representative bodies and to stand for election as a member of those bodies, subject to the limitations and exceptions prescribed by Act of Parliament.

Political parties Most people who want to become MPs will join one of the existing political parties. A political party is a group of people who have roughly the same ideas about how to rule the country, for instance ideas about what is best for the environment or for education. Together with their party they will campaign for their ideas. Not everyone has the same ideas, so there are several different political parties. There are also people who decide to set up a new political party on their own. It is also possible to stand for election without being a member of a political party. Anyone wishing to stand for election has to apply to the Electoral Council: www.kiesraad.nl.

The Elections Act

The Elections Act prescribes the election procedures and the necessary preparations.

Voter registration card

Every municipality is required to maintain an electoral register of the residents of the municipality who are eligible to vote. At least fourteen days before polling day, each person eligible to vote will receive a voter registration card and a list of the political parties and their candidates who are participating in the elections. At least four days before polling day the voters receive a list of candidates. These lists are also published in the newspapers.

Electoral districts and polling districts

The Netherlands is divided into nineteen electoral districts for the purpose of organising the country’s elections. These districts are subdivided into polling districts. Most political groupings participating in the elections will do so in all the electoral districts. The votes cast for a specific political party in the various electoral districts are added up. In each electoral district there is a principal electoral office. The polling stations submit their polling results to the principal electoral committee, which in its turn submits the information to the Central Electoral Office in The Hague. The latter determines the overall result of the election.

Debate about reform of the electoral system

The way in which the members of the House of Representatives are elected is called the electoral system. Since 1917, the Netherlands has had an electoral system of proportional representation. The more people who cast their votes for a party, the more MPs this party will have in the House of Representatives. This system makes it possible for many smaller political parties to be represented in Parliament as well. The composition of the House of Representatives largely represents the different political preferences in the country