ANPThe plenary hall of the House of Representatives
NOS Nieuws•vandaag, 06:49
The Randstad has been overrepresented in the House of Representatives in recent decades. About 60 percent of the MPs lived there, while about 40 percent of the Dutch population lived there. Over-representation also occurs elsewhere in the country: for example in the regions of Noord-Friesland, Twente and Delfzijl and the surrounding area. This has emerged from research by the University of Groningen in collaboration with NRC.
Other regions were actually less represented by members of the House of Representatives than might be expected on the basis of their population. Examples are Flevoland, the Veluwe, the Zaanstreek, the Achterhoek, the Kop van Noord-Holland and Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.
The researchers base their conclusions on an analysis of the period from 1994 to 2021. They noted where MPs were born and where they lived shortly after parliamentary elections). The researchers also analyzed the extent to which place names appeared in parliamentary questions. They put the data of 1188 MPs and more than 67,686 parliamentary questions on the map.
The aim of the research is to better understand the so-called ‘regional dissatisfaction’: the feeling that national politicians overlook certain regions. “We wanted to better understand how this dissatisfaction relates to representation in the House of Representatives,” says Professor of Public Administration Caspar van den Berg at the University of Groningen. That is why the researchers combined the data on the House of Representatives with a measurement of regional dissatisfaction from 2017.
Under- and over-represented
The researchers divide the Netherlands into four categories: The ‘dominant centre’ consists of the Randstad conurbation and other regions that were overrepresented by MPs. In this center, residents had an above-average feeling that politicians are there for them and that the region is being appreciated.
The ‘comfortable middle’ often consists of regions around the Randstad. Those regions were underrepresented by MPs and relatively few questions were asked about these regions. At the same time, there was less regional dissatisfaction than average. Examples include Flevoland, the Zaan region and the Arnhem-Nijmegen region.
In the ‘unseen periphery’ there was an above-average feeling that the government overlooked the region. Regions in this category were also less than average represented in the House of Representatives. Examples are East Groningen, the Achterhoek, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and the Kop van Noord-Holland.
Finally, there is the ‘vocal periphery’, regions outside the Randstad where more MPs come from than you would expect. Regional dissatisfaction was relatively high here and trust in institutions is on average the lowest here. Examples are Twente and several regions in Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe and Limburg.
ANP Parts of Groningen were over-represented in the House of Representatives, yet there is a lot of dissatisfaction
According to the study, more representation in the House of Representatives does not automatically go hand in hand with the feeling that the government and politicians are there for the region. “If you want to remove that dissatisfaction, more MPs from that region is not the solution,” says Van den Berg.
The professor believes that members of parliament should become more aware of the differences between the regions. “We have long thought that the regional differences in the Netherlands are small. The distances are short and we are an egalitarian country, but due to heated discussions about nitrogen, the wolf or wind farms, we see that our country is very diverse.”
Being aware of those differences is important to maintain support, says Van den Berg. “Major transitions are coming in the field of energy and climate. The consequences of, for example, nitrogen policy or the use of wind energy often affect areas that are less densely populated. If you want to maintain support, it is important that people in those regions trust that the government is also there for them and that they don’t feel out of place.”
No peer review yet
The scientists have shared their research results with NOS, in anticipation of a scientific publication in a professional journal. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.