Government failures lead to citizen disengagement in the Netherlands: report

November 3, 2023  –THE HAGUE – The government has failed in recent years, leading to disengagement among many citizens. This is one of the findings from a commission that studied the democratic rule of law, which examines how the government interacts with its citizens and how citizens interact with each other. 

“It’s not too late, but we cannot continue like this,” the researchers stated. They advise the government and politicians to involve citizens more in decision-making, provide better assistance with issues, and not penalize harshly for minor mistakes. 

The researchers pointed out that a group of citizens is disadvantaged by the current functioning of the democratic rule of law to the extent that constitutional promises, including social rights like housing, social security, healthcare, and education, are not being fulfilled. Decisions are often made by those who do not suffer the consequences themselves. 

Others feel the government does not adequately support them, expecting citizens to navigate complex regulations and sending them back and forth when seeking help, with little forgiveness for mistakes made. The report cites the childcare benefits scandal as a stark example of this issue. 

These problems are causing significant societal frustration, leading some citizens to radicalize and believe in the control of a malevolent elite. This discontent also drives greater division among citizens with differing views. 

Outgoing Minister Hugo de Jonge of Home Affairs sent the report to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, which requested the research last year. The commission’s analysis is concerning and calls for action, the minister said “Together, we must resist the erosion of democracy,” he wrote. 

Since the childcare benefits scandal was exposed, governance has been a frequent topic among politicians. Pieter Omtzigt regards it as the most crucial issue for his newly formed party, Nieuw Sociaal Contract, which is currently doing well in the polls. 

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