THE HAGUE (AFP) – Legalising all drugs, banning a blackface children’s character, scrapping Sunday shopping and introducing mobile apps to tell MPs how to vote are some of the unorthodox ideas being peddled by Dutch political parties.
Twenty-eight parties — a post-World War II record — are vying for the 150 seats in the centuries-old parliament when The Netherlands goes to the polls on March 15.
The country’s newest party, Artikel 1, founded late last year by former TV host Sylvana Simons to fight racism, has floated perhaps one of the most controversial ideas.
It entails banning a traditional Christmas-time character called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) from public spaces.
The beloved jolly character accompanies Dutch Saint Nicolas in early December to hand out sweets to kids.
But foreigners are often shocked to see dozens of blackface men and women in gaudy costumes with red lips and afro wigs parading city streets.
Artikel 1 would ban Black Pete figures from public spaces, and proclaim July 1 as a national holiday to mark the abolition of slavery.
Meanwhile, should they get their say, the techno-savvy StemNL Party (VoteNL) proposes that all citizens should weigh in on draft legislation before the Dutch lower house via a mobile phone app.
After receiving an alert that MPs are about to cast ballots, the issue would be put up for a “citizens’ vote” via the app.
– Party for non-voters –
StemNL’s lawmakers will then rely on the outcome of the citizens’ poll to decide which way to vote.
In the 21st century “we don’t need a new government, we need a new system to give The Netherlands the kind of democracy it deserves,” the party said on its website.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Non-Voter Party (NietStemmers) has no political programme and plans “not to vote for anything” in the lower house.
“Political parties pretend that non-voters don’t exist,” the party says.
“We are going to end that. We are going to make the voice of non-voters heard. From now on, non-voters will also get seats in parliament,” the party said, hoping to cash in on disillusionment among some 12.9 eligible Dutch voters.
The Netherlands has a plethora of Christian-based parties from the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal to the deeply conservative Reformed Political Party (SGP).
There is also the evangelical JezusLeeft (Jesus Lives), which on its home page says it is a “party which does not add water to its wine”.
Currently with three seats in the lower house, the SGP wants to ban all Sunday shopping so citizens can “go to church.”
The party, which has never had a woman in parliament since its founding in 1918, also advocates a “no work” Sunday, unless the work is an act of charity or an essential service.
It also vows to close all 600 so-called “coffee shops” in The Netherlands which sell cannabis, and to ban all advertisements featuring alcoholic drinks.
The Libertarian Party on the other hand, which strives for maximum freedom and little or no government interference, wants to legalise the production, trade and possession of all drugs.
Founded in 1993, it also wants The Netherlands out of the European Union, NATO and the United Nations, which exist “solely to help politicians further their careers.”
– Toilets on all trains –
The 50Plus party, set up to defend the rights of the over 50s, already has one seat in parliament.
Apart from serious proposals on pensions and retirement age, it also has a more pressing matter — that toilets should be added to all trains.
Initially 81 parties enrolled with the Dutch Election Council in mid-December to field candidates on March 15, but only 28 finally met the criteria to participate.
Parties which did not make it included the Kleptocrat Party — which wants to scrap anti-tobacco and anti-smoking laws — and the “HHH Party” which in Dutch translates to the “Ha Ha Ha Party”, as well as the Politically Correct Party.