Some days ago, a couple of citizens came up with a website in favour of an election threshold. Such a measure will have a bad influence on our democracy. To make matters worse, the efficiency the group hopes to gain by setting such a threshold is bogus. By setting an election threshold, the democratic diversity is harmed, the parliament becomes less efficient, and political games become more prevalent.

The Netherlands do not have a formal election threshold. There is an informal threshold, due to the fact that there are no partial seats in parliament, but that is only logical. Therefore, in the Dutch system, the parliament truly is a reflection of the population – if we assume that everyone votes. This means every citizen should feel represented in our democracy.

Democracy? Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency!
Somehow, there are always people who favour a so-called efficient government over a fully democratic one. In the end, most of those persons can be deemed ignorant or naive. Of course, having a benevolent dictator is a wonderful idea in theory. However, as history learned us many times, such persons do not exist.

There is, of course, quite a difference between merely setting an election threshold and throwing democracy fully away. Nevertheless, democracy is not only about giving the power to the citizens, but also concerns protecting minorities and sustaining the democracy itself. The protection of minorities is why diversity is of such high importance. By introducing an election threshold in the Netherlands, we would deprive certain groups of their democratic representation. To be specific, the strictly Reformed, the very green left, the Christian left and the elderly would be left out.

On a side note, this is also the basic reason why the proposal of the conservative liberal party to reduce the number of seats in parliament to an all-time low number is a bad idea. Additionally, this idea increases the already high workload of our members of parliament, who already have a working week of 80 to 100 hours. One can imagine how weak parliament would become if this happened.

An Election Threshold Introduces Inefficiency
Apparently, people think that the government becomes more efficient when there is an election threshold. However, this would result in smaller groups in parliament. Those groups still have to cooperate, but cannot rely on smaller parties as they did before. At the same time, the few large parties that stay in parliament have to fight each other in the political arena.

One can imagine the results a small group of large blocks in parliament would look like. In the past, the Netherlands had many coalitions of merely two parties that also required a lot of days to get formed. Those cabinets have a more evident power struggle between the two participants, whereas in a coalition with one big group and a couple of smaller ones, the roles are clearer. Such power struggles are not a good basis for a stable government, even though certain persons would like you to believe so.

Political Gaming: Here I Come!
As stated, the political arena becomes a place where large parties have to fight each other. For example, in Germany there is a constant fight between the social democrats and the more left socialists. This country does have an election threshold, which caused the political left to become divided. This is mainly political gaming: cooperation is not good for the electoral results, even though this could be used to realise programmatic points. On the other hand, in a more diverse parliament, different parties have to work together in good faith, if they want to get any results at all.

Most coalitions that have fallen did so because there was a disagreement and one of the participants was on a rise in the election polls. In other words, those governments dissolved for purely political reasons. By introducing coalitions that exist of two large parties, these influences become stronger, because there are clearly two groups, of which commonly one wins and one loses in the next election. Therefore, dissolving the coalition when you are on the rise, is a good strategy.

Election Thresholds? It’s a Stupid Idea!
For many reasons, introducing an election threshold is a bad idea. Firstly, the claimed efficiency will not be gained. Furthermore, political games and inefficiency will be the result of this change. Finally, our democratic system gets the next blow in the name of efficient government. Therefore, an election threshold is a very bad idea, and should not be implemented.

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