Senate (Netherlands)

Last updated

Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal
States General of the Netherlands
Coat of arms of the Eerste Kamer.svg
Jan Anthonie Bruijn, VVD
since 2 July 2019
First Vice President
Arda Gerkens, SP
since 9 July 2019
Second Vice President
Joop Atsma, CDA
since 16 March 2021
Senate (Netherlands) 2021.svg
Political groups
Government (32)
  •   VVD (12)
  •   CDA (9)
  •   D66 (7)
  •   CU (4)

Opposition (43)

Length of term
4 years
Indirect party-list proportional
Last election
27 May 2019 [1]
Next election
Meeting place
Plenaire zaal Eerste Kamer.jpg
Senate plenary chamber, Binnenhof, The Hague

The Senate (Dutch : Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal [ˈeːrstə ˈkaːmər dɛr ˈstaːtə(n) ˌɣeːnəˈraːl] or simply Eerste Kamer [ˈeːrstə ˈkaːmər] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ), literally "First Chamber", or sometimes Senaat [səˈnaːt] ) is the upper house of the States General, the legislature of the Netherlands. Its 75 members are elected on lists by the members of the twelve States-Provincial and three Caribbean electoral colleges for the Senate every four years, within three months of the provincial elections. All provinces and colleges have different electoral weight depending on their population.


Members of the Senate tend to be veteran or part-time politicians at the national level, often having other roles. They receive an allowance which is about a quarter of the salary of the members of the lower house. Unlike the politically more significant House of Representatives, it meets only once a week.

It has the right to accept or reject legislative proposals but not to amend them or to initiate legislation. Directly after a bill has been passed by the House of Representatives, it is sent to the Senate and is submitted to a parliamentary committee. The committee decides whether the bill can be immediately put on the agenda of the full chamber or if there should first be preparatory study of the bill. If a bill is immediately put on the agenda of the full chamber, it is passed as a formality without a debate.


Although this body is called the "Senate" in English, this is not a direct translation of its official Dutch name, the "First Chamber of the States General" or, in short, the "First Chamber". Nevertheless, and in contrast to the Second Chamber, the name Senaat is also used often in the media. "Member of the First Chamber" (Eerste Kamerlid), "member of the Senate" (senaatslid) or "senator" (senator) are used, although the first one is the official and most used term.


Exterior of the Senate Building from the Binnenhof. Binnenhof @ Centrum @ The Hague (20388154990).jpg
Exterior of the Senate Building from the Binnenhof.
Exterior of the Senate Building from the Hofvijver. Binnenhof - Haag.jpg
Exterior of the Senate Building from the Hofvijver.

The first constitution of the modern Netherlands, passed in 1814, re-established a unicameral States General. As it became clear that the former Southern Netherlands would be added to the new United Kingdom of the Netherlands, a newly instituted constitutional commission was tasked with drafting a new constitution. The southern members of the constitutional commission pressed for a bicameral system because of the conviction that their nobility should be given a place in the legislature. While the northern members were not enthusiastic about the proposal, they agreed under the condition that nobility would not be a requirement for membership. [2] [3] The new constitution, which came into effect on 24 August 1815, thus provided for a Senate consisting of forty to sixty members appointed by the king for life. The list of the first appointees was published on 16 September 1815 and the newly appointed chamber was first assembled on 21 September 1815 in Brussels in a joint assembly with the House of Representatives. [4] In its early years, the Senate functioned as a bulwark of the Crown (the king and his ministers). Its members, appointed by the king from among the "most significant of the country", were mostly confidants of the king who were often called upon to veto bills that displeased him. Such bills were usually private members' bills from the House of Representatives. [2] The Senate remained in existence after the independence of Belgium in 1830, although its membership was halved to no fewer than twenty and no more than thirty members. [4]

Much changed in the political sphere as a result of the Constitutional Reform of 1848, which introduced direct elections for the House of Representatives, which until then had been elected by the States-Provincial. The constitutional commission, under the chairmanship of Johan Rudolph Thorbecke, intended for the Senate to be directly elected as well, but the predominantly conservative House of Representatives blocked this, fearing that the two chambers would be too similar. Additionally, senators were expected to judge bills with more independence and distance from daily politics, as a "chambre de reflection", which was deemed impossible when they would be forced to campaign for direct election.

It was therefore decided that the Senate would henceforth be elected by the States-Provincial. Its 39 seats were distributed among the provinces degressively proportional to population, and a third of its members would be elected for 9-year terms every three years using a majoritarian system. [5] The position of the Senate and the criteria governing eligibility to stand for election were also among the changes. Monitoring the quality of legislation gradually came to be the main function of the Senate after 1848. [6]

The existence and functioning of the Senate have been criticised throughout history, manifested in reports of state commissions, government proposals and private bills calling for reform or abolition of the Senate. Abolition of the Senate was attempted by social democrats and progressive liberals in 1903, and again after World War I, but these proposals could not count on sufficient support. [2]

However, reform came in 1922, five years after a constitutional amendment that introduced universal male suffrage and proportional representation to the House of Representatives. The constitutional amendment of 1922 brought proportional representation to the Senate as well. Rather than the seats being distributed among the provinces, the provinces were now organised into four groups of roughly equal population, each electing twelve or thirteen senators under party-list proportional representation. The term of senators was decreased to six years, with two of the four groups electing their senators every three years. The number of senators was increased from 50 to 75 in 1956, and the distribution of seats among groups of provinces was adapted to account for changes in population distribution. [5]

The Senate was subjected to another reform in 1983. The term of senators was further reduced to four years, equal to that of Representatives. The system of groups of provinces and staggered elections was abolished in favour of quadrennial elections for the entire Senate in one nationwide constituency. Several minor changes have since been adopted. In 2010, the possibility for party lists to enter into an electoral alliance was abolished, and the number of preference votes needed for a candidate to be elected was increased from 50% to 100% of the quota. Another amendment in 2017 enfranchised the island councils of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba, three public bodies within the Netherlands. [5]

Parliamentary leaders

Parliamentary leaderPartySeatsLeader sinceMember since
Mw. Jorrisma-Lebbink Voorzitter van Koninklijke Schuttevaer (cropped).JPG Annemarie

(born 1950)
People's Party
for Freedom and
1224 November 2015
(5 years, 288 days)
9 June 2015
(6 years, 91 days)
Ben Knapen 2012 (cropped).jpg Dr.
Ben Knapen
(born 1951)
Democratic Appeal
911 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
7 June 2011
(10 years, 93 days)
PaulRosenmoeller.JPG Paul Rosenmöller
(born 1956)
GroenLinks 811 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
11 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
Oratie hoogleraar Annelien Bredenoord (38803034930) (cropped).jpg Dr.

(born 1979)
Democrats 66 711 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
24 January 2019
(2 years, 227 days)

9 June 2015 –
3 October 2018
(3 years, 110 days)
Mei Li Vos (31079033931).jpg Dr.
Mei Li Vos
(born 1970)
Labour Party 611 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
11 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
Netherlands politic personality icon.svg Marjolein Faber
(born 1960)
Party for Freedom 510 June 2014
(7 years, 90 days)
7 June 2011
(10 years, 93 days)
RS1539 Portret Tiny Kox (cropped).JPG Tiny Kox
(born 1953)
Socialist Party 410 June 2003
(18 years, 90 days)
10 June 2003
(18 years, 90 days)
Huizinga Dutch politician kabinet Balkenende IV.jpg Tineke Huizinga
(born 1960)
Christian Union 411 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
6 April 2021
(155 days)
Netherlands politic personality icon.svg Dr.
Paul Frentrop
(born 1954)
Forum for
31 September 2020
(1 year, 7 days)
11 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
Niko Koffeman (cropped).jpg Niko Koffeman
(born 1958)
Party for
the Animals
312 June 2007
(14 years, 88 days)
12 June 2007
(14 years, 88 days)
Martin van Rooijen 1974 (1).jpg Martin
van Rooijen

(born 1942)
50PLUS 211 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
11 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)

9 June 2015 –
23 March 2017
(1 year, 281 days)
Netherlands politic personality icon.svg Peter Schalk
(born 1961)
Political Party
29 June 2015
(6 years, 91 days)
9 June 2015
(6 years, 91 days)
Ton Raven.png Ton Raven
(born 1957)
Senate Group
119 January 2021
(232 days)
19 January 2021
(232 days)
Parliamentary leaderGroupSeatsLeader sinceMember since
Annabel Nanninga 2021 (cropped).png Annabel Nanninga
(born 1977)
715 February 2021
(205 days)
11 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)
Netherlands politic personality icon.svg Henk Otten
(born 1967)
225 July 2019
(2 years, 45 days)
11 June 2019
(2 years, 89 days)

Members of the Presidium

President PartyService in
the Presidium
Service in
the Senate
Jan Anthonie Bruijn.png Dr.
Jan Anthonie Bruijn
(born 1958)
People's Party
for Freedom and
2 July 2019
(2 years, 68 days)
6 November 2012
(8 years, 306 days)
First Deputy PresidentPartyService in
the Presidium
Service in
the Senate
Arda Gerkens 2009.jpg Arda Gerkens
(born 1965)
Socialist Party 9 July 2019
(2 years, 61 days)
14 May 2013
(8 years, 117 days)
Second Deputy PresidentPartyService in
the Presidium
Service in
the Senate
Joop-atsma-portret.jpg Joop Atsma
(born 1956)
Democratic Appeal
16 March 2021
(176 days)
9 June 2015
(6 years, 91 days)

Elections and membership

Electoral system

The 75 senators are elected every four years by the members of the States-Provincial of the country's twelve provinces. The seats are distributed in one nationwide constituency using party-list proportional representation. Remainder seats are distributed using the highest averages method. The weight of a member's vote is determined by the population of the province in which the voter is a member of the States-Provincial. The table below shows the weight of members' votes per province as of the 2019 election. [7]

ProvinceMembersPopulation [8] Value
South Holland 553,674,146668
North Holland 552,853,488519
North Brabant 552,544,995463
Gelderland 552,071,913377
Utrecht 491,342,194274
Overijssel 471,156,373246
Limburg 471,116,127237
Friesland 43647,740151
Groningen 43584,094136
Drenthe 41492,179120
Flevoland 41416,431102
Zeeland 39383,07398
Bonaire 920,10422
Sint Eustatius 53,1386
Saba 51,9154

Historic composition

Party breakdown of the Senate after the 2019 indirect elections
PartiesSeats 2019Seats 2015Seats 2011Seats 2007Seats 2003Seats 1999Seats 1995Seats 1991
Forum for Democracy (FVD)12
People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD)1213161415192312
Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA)912112123201927
GreenLeft (GL)84545844
Democrats 66 (D66)7105234712
Labour Party (PvdA)68141419151416
Party for Freedom (PVV)5910
Socialist Party (SP)49812421
Christian Union (CU)4324242*2*
Party for the Animals (PvdD)3211
50PLUS (50+)221
Political Reformed Party (SGP)22122222
Independent Senate Group (OSF)1111111
Pim Fortuyn List (LPF)1
General Elderly Alliance (AOV)2

* Reformatory Political Federation (RPF) and Reformed Political League (GPV)

See also


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  6. "English". Eerste Kamer. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
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  8. Population figures: 1 January 2019