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Voters punish local politicians for their corruption, private scandals, and professional failures

28 November 2022

Political parties that have misbehaving politicians among their members receive fewer votes at the following municipal council elections than similar parties without incidents. Corruption, private scandals, as well as professional failures are punished by voters. The electoral punishing of corruption in the Netherlands is relatively heavy, compared to other countries. These are the conclusions of Harm Rienks in his PhD thesis.

Rienks researched to what extent citizens are able to influence the municipality’s policy by voting. Rienks shows that, on average, political parties participating in the municipal executive lose votes over such incidents. This effect becomes smaller when there are more parties in the municipal executive and also when a party is elected into the municipal executive multiple consecutive times.

This seems to be in line with the idea that voters partly hold parties responsible for the pursued policy, argues Rienks. His findings confirm that Dutch municipal council elections are a lot more than just a popularity poll of the parties that are currently in the House of Representatives. In these elections, parties compete with each other and local considerations are important.

Rienks also concludes that changes in the municipal executive do not lead to changes in local taxes. For example, an increase in the number of seats of right-wing parties does not lead to lower local taxes. A surprising result, according to Rienks, because the academic theory suggests that competitive elections lead to responsive policy.

Rienks' findings confirm that Dutch municipal council elections are a lot more than just a popularity poll of the parties that are currently in the House of Representatives. (Photo: ANP Hollandse Hoogte / Venema Media)
Rienks' findings confirm that Dutch municipal council elections are a lot more than just a popularity poll of the parties that are currently in the House of Representatives. (Photo: ANP Hollandse Hoogte / Venema Media)
Last modified:28 November 2022 12.32 p.m.
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