After the participation to the International Day of Democracy activities in The Hague, delegates from Egypt and Zimbabwe visited one of the democratic institutions of the The Netherlands: the Dutch Electoral Council. Secretary-General of the Electoral Council Mr Melle Bakker prepared an in-depth presentation for our guests. Since Electoral Councils can be highly contested bodies in developing democracies, the EPD guests were surprised by the high level of confidence that the Dutch audience has in the conduct of elections and they pointed out some of the weak spots of the Dutch Electoral Council:
- The independence of the Council, which is financially dependent on the Ministry of the Interior, could be questioned.
- The practice of proxy voting, which allows a voter to be entrusted by two other voters to cast their vote, could lead to abuse and has been criticised by the OECD.
- New parties have to pay a warranty which will be returned to them if they meet the threshold of votes in the elections. Thus, established and new parties are initially not on an equal footing in the election process.
- There is no article in the Dutch Electoral Law about international election observation in The Netherlands. Having such a law could facilitate the request of activists in countries in democratic transition where the authorities are rejecting election observation missions, as these activists could refer to the existence of the law in developed countries.
- Recounts of votes are conducted by the civil service, which assumes a politically neutral government.
- The previous parliament plays a strong role in installing the new one, which assumes a tradition of peaceful handover of power.
- The participants also discussed the importance of a democratic culture, which is as important as the existence of legal texts and institutions for a functioning