Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Minority integration and freedom of speech remained top political concerns in the Netherlands throughout 2009. Geert Wilders, the leader of the anti-immigrant Party for Freedom (PVV), was charged with inciting hatred and discrimination in January for his comments about Muslims in recent years. The PVV won 17 percent of the Dutch vote in the June European Parliament elections, and polled well throughout the year. However, Rotterdam elected the Netherlands’ first immigrant mayor that same month.
The Netherlands is an electoral democracy. The 150-member lower house of parliament, or Second Chamber, is elected every four years by proportional representation. The 75-member upper house, or First Chamber, is elected for four-year terms by the country’s provincial councils. Foreigners resident in the country for five years or more are eligible to vote in local elections. The Netherlands extended voting rights to Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles for the first time in the June 2009 European Parliament elections.
The country is a destination and transit point for trafficking in persons, particularly women and girls for sexual exploitation. A 2005 law expanded the legal definition of trafficking to include forced labor and increased the maximum penalty for traffickers to 12 years in cases of serious physical injury and 15 years in cases of death.