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 new municipalities will formally come into existence in 2019. Due to redistricting, the borders of four Groningen municipalities in the north western portion of the province are becoming one: Het Hogeland. De Marne, Winsum, Eemsmond and Bedum are merging into a single municipality. Each municipality has between 10,000 and 15,000 residents, so the new combined population will be nearly 50,000.
|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. In De Marne, Winsum, Eemsmond and Bedum, there are 1,621 EU citizens eligible to vote.
What are the issues?
Het Hogeland is home to a range of single and multi-issue parties. Many are local chapters of the major Dutch national parties, but others are campaigning solely on local issues. Each electoral programme is different, and covers several subjects, but some issues are most certainly at the forefront of minds in the various areas that make up the new municipality:
- Building a new train station in Adorp
- Subsidies and support for cultural organisations
- Increasing green energy production through solar farms
- Building regulations
- Public infrastructure, whether large-scale such as changing the course of the Boterdiep, or building a public swimming pool, or expanding the N46 road to four lanes
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, make sure you select Het Hogeland on the start page to get questions that are pertinent to the area.
The Dutch electoral system for municipalities relies on party lists, through the proportional representation system. Basically, this means that however many votes a part receives will be exactly reflected in the proportion of seats they are awarded. See below for our guide to the parties:
- GB-Het Hogeland (For the Interests of Het Hogeland) – A solidly local party with a programme that includes support for local business and the agricultural sector, de-centralisation of social care into the region, and improved transport to facilitate (amongst other things) tourism. To read their full manifesto, please see here (in Dutch).
- SP (Socialist Party) – A national party, and one of the main opposition groups in the Dutch parliament, the SP is standing in Het Hogeland on a platform that has been crowdsourced through local interviews. Their positions include funding drink and drug-prevention education in schools, new regulations for improving livability in new construction projects, and a focus on small to medium-sized businesses. To read their full manifesto, please see here (in Dutch).
- CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal) – A national party that tends to sit to the right of centre, the CDA’s programme in the Het Hogeland includes supporting heritage and cultural projects, driving tourism in the region, and providing more housing, especially for people with low incomes. Their full manifesto is available here (in Dutch).
- PvdA (The Labour Party) – The party of the late famous Dutch PM Wim Kok, the Labour Party has fallen somewhat in national significance, but the party is standing in Het Hogeland on policies such as a fund for citizen’s projects (both large and small), improved accessibility and road design in villages, and reduced reliance on gas production and energy by making all new buildings and homes more eco-friendly. To read the full manifesto, please see here (in Dutch).
- ChristenUnie (The Christian Union) – Socially to the right of center, but progressive when concerning the environment and economy, ChristenUnie’s programme in Het Hogeland is oriented towards supporting community groups, moving towards greener energy sources, and the creation of a central agency to market the area to tourists and businesses. The download link for their manifesto is at the bottom of this page (click Verkiezingsprogramma).
- VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) – The party of the current Dutch PM, Mark Rutte, the VVD in Het Hogeland is campaigning for votes with a programme including simplifying social care rules, expanding the land available for agriculture, and expanding transport links, including a new station in Adorp. For more information about their policies, please see this standpunten list on the website (in Dutch).
- D66 (Democrats 66) – Part of the current coalition government in the Netherlands, D66 is a liberal party, and in Het Hogeland, D66’s programme includes widening the N46 road, stimulating house-building (with a focus on accessible apartments designed for the elderly), and attracting more people to the area through both tourism and re-location. The full manifesto can be found here (in Dutch).
- Hogeland Lokaal Centraal (Hogeland Local Central) – A local party, HLC is hoping to utilise the merging of the former municipalities as an opportunity to reform municipal government. HLC’s manifesto includes pledges to maintain four separate administrative centers in the area, ban any new coffeeshops in the area, and improve transport links to stimulate the Eemshaven-based economy. The full manifesto can be read here (in Dutch).
- GroenLinks (GreenLeft) – The national party that combines green and social-democratic policies, GroenLinks is standing in Het Hogeland on a platform of preserving the natural landscape of the region (and promoting tourism with it), putting money into youth development and social services, and improving literacy rates through courses at a new library. Their full manifesto can be read here (in Dutch).