Between Democracy and Citizenship: The political discussion about foreigners' suffrage in the Netherlands 1970-2000
Hof, E. van 't
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On the 19th of March 1986 approximately 350.000 extra people gained the opportunity to make their vote count during the Dutch local elections. Turks, Moroccans, Greeks, Italians and a broad range of other foreigners had been given the right to participate if they lived longer than five years in the country. Although the percentage of foreigners that actually cast their vote on this partly clouded Wednesday fell far behind when compared with the turnout of Dutch citizens, the newly acquired possibility to participate in politics was characterized by many politicians as a victory for democracy. For modern Dutch politics, the grant of suffrage to foreigners meant a unique moment in parliamentary history: the detachment of a mode of formal political participation from the demand of citizenship. In order to make this detachment possible, two formal political boundaries had to be taken in consideration. Firstly, the constitution had to be changed in order to broaden the scope of active and passive voting rights beyond the boundaries of citizenship. Secondly, a regular law had to be implemented in order to actually establish the possibility to vote. This thesis is concerned with the character and development of the political process before and after the actual grant of voting rights to foreigners. The first of two main aims of this dissertation is to establish a better understanding of the relation between the general societal developments surrounding the grant of voting rights to foreigners and the stances and approaches of political parties and the Dutch government when this matter was discussed inside and outside parliament.