Burgemeester

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Session of the council of the community Oude IJsselstreek, eastern Netherlands: Hans Alberse (left) as chairman of the council. In the background (right) his colleagues of the city government, Dutch: wethouders. On the right a chair is left empty for his position as mayor.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, the mayor (Dutch: burgemeester or French: bourgmestre) is an appointed government position, whose main responsibility is chairing the executive and legislative councils of a municipality. The title is sometimes translated in English as burgomaster.

Netherlands[edit]

In the Netherlands, the mayor chairs both the council of mayor and aldermen and the municipal council. He is a member of the council of mayor and aldermen (Dutch: college van burgemeester en wethouders or b & w) and has his own portfolios, always including safety and public order. He also has a representative role for the municipal government, both to its civilians and to other authorities on the local, regional and national level.

A large majority of mayors are member of a political party. This can be the majority party in the municipal council, but there are many exceptions on this. However, the mayors are expected to exercise their office in a non-partisan way.

The mayor is appointed by the national government (the Crown) for a renewable six-year term. In the past, mayors for important cities were often chosen after negotiations (behind the screens) between the national parties. This appointment procedure has been criticised because it was seen by some as undemocratic. Especially the party D66 had a direct election of the mayor as one of the main objectives in its platform. In the early 2000s, proposals for change were discussed in the national parliament. However, opponents of the status quo were divided between two alternatives: direct election of the mayor by the people or appointment by the municipal council. A constitutional change to direct election gained a majority in both chambers but failed to pass the final vote in the Senate in March 2005.

In the meantime, although the law remained the same, the practice changed. Nowadays, when a vacancy occurs, a special committee of the municipal council interviews (behind closed doors) candidates, which are pre-selected by the provincial governor (the King's Commissioner). After advice by the committee, the council express its preferences to the Minister of the Interior, who almost always follows this recommendation.