Editorial by Tessa Sanne Foekens
The Everything=Politics campaign of the National Youth Council (NJR) seeks to increase the turnout of young people.
Due to the lack of information in English international students are particularly underrepresented in their cities, as they are often not aware of what the municipality does, of what parties stand for or that they can vote at all. The municipality influences the daily-life of everyone and by voting on March the 16th international students can change the outcome of the elections and the obstacles they face in their respective cities.
EU citizens can cast their vote in municipality elections as soon as they have registered in the city that they live and non-EU citizens can vote once they have been ‘legally’ residing in the Netherlands for five years. The number of internationals residing in cities in the North is growing and, therefore, this group can seriously influence who is in power. Voting at local elections is one of the main ways in which internationals can make their voice heard in the Netherlands.
Municipalities decide on more things than people often realize. They do not just decide which roads are built and which amateur football clubs can open. They also decide on topics that directly impact important aspects of the life of many internationals, such as how to handle the housing crises, whether the basic income should be increased, job prospects for non-Dutch speakers, whether low income households should be compensated for the rising energy bills and whether the North should be better connected to cities like Amsterdam through railroads, thereby increasing the prospect that internationals in the North can work in the Randstad.
For these reasons, it is important that as many people as possible vote.
Recently, several tools have been created to help internationals in their decision whether to vote and who to vote for, particularly in Groningen city. These include:
– A voting compass, which consists of 30 statements that you can agree or disagree with. After you have filled in all your preferences, the compass shows you which party matches your wishes most and what the argumentation of all parties are.
– An English debate between 11 parties, hosted by SIB and Forum, which specifically addressed some of the concerns of the international community.
Sadly, other cities often still lack English information. This causes many voters to decide that they will not be using their democratic right to vote, which in turn harms the city council’s representation of all its residents, as well as its legitimacy. That is why I, as the Everything=Politics Youth Ambassador of Groningen, in cooperation with the Northern Times want to give internationals a point of reference. If you are an international living in the North and you have any questions or doubts about the upcoming local elections, you can leave a comment below this article, or contact me via Social Media. Together, we can have a positive impact on the region’s friendliness towards internationals.
Tessa Sanne Foekens is an MA student of international relations: international security and a youth ambassador for Everything = Politics in Groningen.