Have you ever wondered if you can vote in the Netherlands? Chances are you can, but your eligibility to vote in the various elections depends on your residency status and citizenship. We have a handy guide to help you negotiate the intricacies of the Dutch electoral system.

The Dutch Political System

The Netherlands is a monarchy.  King Willem-Alexander van Oranje-Nassau is the representative head of state without any real political power as such. The Dutch parliament consists of two legislative chambers; de Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives or The Lower House) and de Eerste Kamer (the Senate or the Upper House). These two chambers constitute de Staten Generaal (The Estates – General). The government is often formed by a coalition of different political parties with a Prime Minister (PM) as head of the cabinet; the PM is usually the leader from the party which won the most seats in the elections. The council of ministers drives the country’s policy while the PM governs together with the cabinet of ministers. The current PM is Mark Rutte from the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) who governs in a coalition with the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), Democrats 66 (D66) and Christian Union (CU). This coalition government holds a slight majority in both legislative chambers.  

Elections on the Three Levels of Government

Tweede Kamerverkiezingen (National Elections)

Provinciale Statenverkiezingen (Provincial Elections)                 

  • Takes place once every four years
  • Affects all 12 provinces of the Netherlands
  • Voters must be Dutch nationals and 18 or older
  • The most recent election was held in March 2019 which means the next election will be in 2023

Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen (Municipal Elections)

  • Takes place once every four years
  • Voters need to be 18 or older and registered with their municipality
  • EU/Schengen citizens or non-EU citizens who have lived in the Netherlands uninterrupted for at least five years are eligible to vote
  • The next election will be in March 2022


So When Exactly Can Non-Citizens Vote in the Netherlands?

Unless you are a passport carrying Dutch citizen, specific rules apply as to when you can and cannot voteDo take note that to vote you have to be 18 years of age or older. EU or Schengen citizens must have registered residency status in the Netherlands, and non-EU permanent residents need to have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years.  

1) You can vote in all Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen in the municipality where you reside.

These are local elections that distribute seats in the city council. They take place every four years. (The last was 2018 and the next one is in 2022.) The number of seats is different for each municipality, depending on its population size. In these elections, you elect a party candidate who then counts as a vote for the party in question.

The gemeenteraadsverkiezingen do not elect a mayor. In the Netherlands, a mayor is chosen by the crown, meaning that the king selects a mayor in the respective municipality based on advice from local authorities and the minister of internal affairs. There is an ongoing debate about changing this system. One side proposes a democratic vote for the mayor. The other side claims that if the local city council appoints a mayor, the chosen candidate is an excellent representative for the local authorities and may lessen significant conflicts between the mayor and the city council.

2) You can vote in the Waterschapsverkiezingen (Water Authority/Board Elections).

This election is for a regional authority that deals with water barriers, water levels, waterways, water quality and sewage treatment in their respective regions. 


And to keep things interesting, there are also the following elections:

EU Parliament 

EU citizens 18 years and older are eligible to vote in the election of the EU Parliament. You can vote in your country of origin or in the Netherlands. If you wish to vote in the Netherlands you must register well in advance at your local city hall with the Y32 form.


Voters need to be Dutch citizens and be 18 or older.

Happy voting!

Photo Credit Banner Image by Wokandapix

Camilla Borgmo

Camilla is Norwegian/Filipino, born and raised in Norway but has spent the last 13 years abroad, with the last 8 years in Amsterdam. She has two kids, aged 3 and 10 months, with her Dutch husband. She does digital marketing and communication for a global company, and has a passion for writing. She's thrilled to be creating content for Amsterdam Mamas.