Elections of the municipal council

In the Netherlands, elections to the municipal councils take place once every four years. The most recent municipal council elections were held on 21 March 2018. The next elections will be held on 16 March 2022.

photo of the exterior of The Hague City Hall building

Image: Electoral Council

The municipal executive of each municipality is responsible for the organization of the elections. Municipalities may decide to have the municipal council elections take place concurrently with other elections.

Eligibility to vote

The same requirements for casting their vote in the municipal council elections apply to Dutch nationals and EU citizens. A voter meet the following requirements:

  • the voter must be 18 years of age or over
  • the voter may not be debarred from voting
  • the voter must have been a resident of a Dutch municipality on nomination day, as evidenced by the Base Registry Persons.
     

These requirements apply equally to all non-EU citizens who have legally resided in the Netherlands for at least five years. In other words, possessing Dutch nationality is not a requirement to be entitled to vote in the municipal council elections. The requirements for standing at the elections to the municipal council are virtually the same as the requirements for being entitled to cast a vote. The only difference is that instead of nomination day, the day of (possible) admittance to the municipal council is the reference date for meeting the requirements of residence and age.

Registration of political parties

Political parties desiring to participate in the elections to the municipal council under a particular name (legally referred to as: appellation) are required to have this appellation registered with the central electoral committee of the municipality concerned. Appellations already registered for the elections to the Dutch House of Representatives or provincial council are in principle also registered for the municipal council elections. These appellations do not, therefore, have to be re-registered with the various municipalities for use in the municipal council elections.

Nomination

Both national and local parties and individual citizens may nominate themselves for the municipal council elections. On nomination day, all political parties submit their list of candidates to the central electoral committee of the municipality in which they wish to participate in the elections. Political parties participating in the municipal council elections for the first time and parties that failed to gain a seat in the previous municipal council elections are required to pay a deposit. In addition, new parties, and registered parties that failed to gain a seat in the previous elections, must submit declarations of support. When drawing up their list of candidates, political parties may make use of the Election Supporting Software (ESS).

Polling stations

Polling stations are open from 7.30 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. Only special polling stations may open their doors at an earlier time. No station may be open after 9.00 p.m. As many polling stations as possible, but no fewer than 25% of the total number, must be in buildings accessible to voters with a physical impairment and be in a location that is easy to reach for such voters.

Casting a vote

Everyone eligible to vote will receive an invitation to cast their vote sent to their home address no later than fourteen days prior to election day. This invitation includes their poll card. The poll card allows the voter to cast their vote in the polling station of their choice within the municipality's borders.

Voting by proxy

Voters unable to cast their vote in person on election day may have their vote cast by proxy.

Identification

All voters casting their vote must show identification to identify themselves. Any such identification must not have been expired by more than five years.

Election results

The official results are usually determined by the municipal central electoral committee in open session two days after the election day. On the evening of the election day, preliminary, non-official results are presented in the media. These preliminary results are based on the 'quick count of votes' by the electoral committees.  The results of the municipal council elections are stored in the Electoral Council's election results database.

Appointments

The members of the municipal council are appointed by the central electoral committee. Once it has been determined that a particular candidate was elected, an assessment is conducted to determine whether this candidate may hold a seat as a member of the municipal council. A so-called examination of credentials is conducted to determine whether the candidate meets the membership requirements and whether they do not hold any positions incompatible with being a member of the municipal council.

Overview of municipal councils

As of 1 January 2018, the Netherlands is composed of 380 municipalities. In general, this number has been declining over the years: three decades ago, there were 774 municipalities. The size of a municipal council depends on the number of inhabitants of the municipality. The largest such councils in the Netherlands (for municipalities of more than 200,000 inhabitants) are comprised of 45 members; the smallest of 9 (for municipalities of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants). There is always an odd number of municipal councillors – and thus seats.
The municipal executive of mayor and aldermen is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the municipality. The municipality's mayor chairs both the municipal council and the municipal executive. Aldermen are appointed by the municipal council. Mayors are appointed by the National Government, following a procedure which provides the municipal council with an important voice.