While the majority of the Netherlands held municipal elections back in March, due to redistricting, four newly formed municipalities across the north will be voting on the 21st of November: the city of Groningen, Noardeast-Fryslân, Het Hogeland and Westerkwartier. The Northern Times will be digging into the issues that matter in each of the municipalities in the lead up to the elections.
By Traci White and Thomas Ansell
Why are Groningen and Friesland doing their own thing? Because more and more small and financially vulnerable municipalities are joining forces and redrawing their borders. The former municipalities of Groningen, Haren, and Ten Boer will come together to vote for their representatives in one new, combined election for Groningen. Thanks to the merger, the municipality of Groningen is the fifth most populous in the entire country with more than 227,000 inhabitants. The new municipality will officially come into existence on 1 January, 2019.
|Who can vote?
Unlike the Dutch national elections, municipal elections in the Netherlands are open to anyone registered in the Municipal Database (BRP). All EU citizens can vote in the election, whilst non-EU citizens who have lived in the Netherlands for five years can also vote. There are at least 40,000 foreign-born people who are eligible to vote in Haren, Ten Boer and Groningen, the vast majority of which live in the city of Groningen: there are 38,904 non-Dutch EU citizens there as of 2018.
If you meet these conditions, you should have had a voting pass delivered to your address. If nothing has arrived yet, or you have lost your pass, then you can request a new one. Requesting a new voting pass is easy, and can be done either in writing or in person at a municipal office – all require this form. For more information about the nuts and bolts of voting, the Gemeente Groningen has created a handy English-language guide.
What are the issues?
Groningen is facing a wide range of single and multi-issue parties. All of the major national parties have their own Groningen chapter, but several parties are campaigning solely on local issues. Each electoral programme is different, and covers several subjects, but some issues are most certainly at the forefront:
- Housing, both for students and in general
- Energy, such as renewable and the future of natural gas extraction in the region
- Transportation, namely efforts to make the city even more bicycle-friendly (read: fewer cars) and improving travel connections between urban and rural areas
- Event permits for festivals and other public gatherings
- Construction, specifically the financial basis for local projects (such as the Groninger Forum)
- Inequality and economic growth
- Retail regulations: All of the parties want shops to be able to decide for themselves if they are open on Sunday or not
- Groningen Airport Eelde: This issue pretty evenly divides the parties (except for the ChristenUnie), and that is whether or not the municipality should sell its shares in the airport.
- Public swimming pools: every single party is in favour of keeping all of the municipality’s existing swimming pools open
How do I know which party stands for what I do?
Our handy guide below sets out general policy points for each party, and there is a link to both their website and (if possible) manifesto. There are also two websites (unfortunately only in Dutch) that allow you to select how important several issues are to you, and then where you sit in relation to the parties’ views. StemWijzer and Kieswijzer can be used to decide which parties are likely to represent your views.
- D66 (Democrats 66) – Currently the largest party within the council, D66 is social-liberal in character. They are standing on a wide-ranging programme, including support for education, housing, and green energy, specifically using vacant lots to set up solar panel arrays (as do GroenLinks and the SP). See their full programme (in English) here.
- SP (Socialist Party) – Under the motto “dare to fight, dare to win”, the Socialist Party is campaigning hard on issues such as low-income welfare, reforming inequality and stopping gas extraction. The SP is the only party that is not fully in favour of creating no smoking zones at schools (the party is neutral about it). See their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- PvdA (Labour Party) – The Labour Party is standing on a programme that includes wide-scale investment in public spaces, a transition to green energy, and house-building. See their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- GroenLinks (GreenLeft) – This party stands on a left-ecological platform, and is campaigning for the municipality to be carbon-neutral by 2035, for open local government with more support for low-income people, and more support for cycling, walking and public transport, including adding a tram in the city centre of Groningen. See their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) – The party of the three-term Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, the VVD is standing in Groningen on a platform of fiscal responsibility, expanding capacity at Groningen Airport Eelde, and support for innovation in the energy sector. The VVD is the only party that takes a neutral stance about making youth counselling available at all costs – every other party is in favour of the policy. See their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- Voor Stad en Ommeland (For City and Country) – A merger of the local parties for Groningen, Haren and Ten Boer, this party is calling for standardising local taxes, improving transport links in the area, and improving liveability in the region. See their full programme under standpunten(in Dutch) here
- CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal) – Traditionally just to the right of centre, the CDA in Groningen is standing on a social platform. Taking policy inspiration from Christian values, the party is campaigning for more public facilities, being carbon-neutral by 2035, and investing in the police force. Along with the PvdA, VVD, Stad en Ommeland and PVV, CDA is in favour of increasing camera surveillance in the centre of Groningen. See their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- ChristenUnie (The Christian Union) – Generally slightly more socially conservative, in Groningen the ChristenUnie is against gas extraction, in favour of per-family single-contact social support, and wants to see the introduction of Sunday trading laws. See their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- Student en Stad (Student and City) – Founded in 1993, the party campaigns on issues pertaining to, but not limited to, students in the city of Groningen. For this election, the party is standing on more affordable housing and changing rental contracts, easing regulations when organising events, and more light-controlled cycle paths. This is the only party that wants to make the municipality financially accountable to pay for any shortfalls at the Groninger Forum. Their full programme (in Dutch) is available here, an abridged version (in English) here.
- Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals) – With national representation in parliament, the PvdD in Groningen (founded in 2002) primarily campaigns for animal welfare, diversifying energy sources, and reforming the economic system of the area. Along with the Sports Party, the PvdD is the only other party that wants fireworks to be banned across the municipality. Their full programme (in Dutch) is available here.
- Sport-partij (Sports Party) – This party notes the role of sports in creating social harmony, a healthy society, and education. To this end, the party is campaigning for an extension of sporting opportunities in school, using sports to bring the student and non-student population together, and a free primary school-level swimming certificate scheme. Their full programme (in Dutch) is available here.
- PVV (Party for Freedom)- Best known for its right-wing firebrand leader in The Hague, Geert Wilders, the PVV in Groningen stands for fiscal responsibility, the right for Zwarte Piet impersonators to continue to wear blackface, and fewer windfarms. The PVV is also the only party that does not want to make it mandatory for new homes to be built without a connection to the gas grid. Their full programme (in Dutch) is available here.
- 100% Groningen – This is a locally-based party with a full programme, including building more student accommodation at the Zernike campus, a car-free city centre, and ‘digital democracy’. Their full programme (in Dutch) is available here.
Correction: An earlier version of this article abbreviated the Partij voor de Dieren as Pvvd. It should be PvdD. This has been corrected.