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 three Frisian municipalities in the north eastern portion of the province are becoming one: Noardeast-Fryslân. Dongeradeel, Ferwerderadiel and Kollumerland are merging into a single municipality, and Dokkum is by far the biggest city in the three former municipalities with 13,000 residents. Noardeast-Fryslân will have 45,228 residents combined.
|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 Dongeradeel, Ferwerderadiel and Kollumerland, there are 312 EU citizens and other foreign citizens who meet the voting requirements.
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?
Issues on the party platforms in Friesland are largely local, but quite diverse all the same. Even though Groningen is rightly the centre of attention when it comes to natural gas-related topics, Friesland is also home to a fair number of extraction activities and those are also reflected in the party platforms. Ageing, agriculture, freedoms for retailers and improving the business climate are also on voter’s minds.
- Agriculture: more subsidies for organic agriculture; preventing agricultural land from being converted to natural space; permitting farmers to open shop or camp grounds on their own property; allowing farmers to build solar panels on their farms
- Retail: Cafes, restaurants and dance clubs can choose their own closing times; shops can remain closed on Sundays; the municipality should permit a coffee shop to open
- Facing aging populations: The municipality’s health care spending should not exceed funding provided from the national government, and every town should have a “care home” where elderly citizens can live, receive care and socialise
- School resources: Multiple levels of schooling should be offered under one roof, and swimming lessons for school children should be paid for by the municipality
- Housing: people should be given priority for social housing in the town where they are from, and urban sprawl should be limited
- Taxes: Raising the tourist tax and dropping the real estate tax for town halls
Other issues include whether or not to eventually divest from the natural gas industry, putting more money into preserving Frisian cultural activities such as sports and language lessons, improving the area’s profile as a business location and making welfare available without requiring recipients to apply for jobs.
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.
- CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal) – This centre right party in Friesland currently has the most seats in the three existing municipalities. The party’s main campaign issues in Friesland are making funding available for Frisian small-to-medium enterprises, improving liveability in ageing areas, making it easier for first time home buyers to get credit and free OV day tickets for foreign tourists. They are the only party opposed to letting stores decide whether or not to remain open on Sundays. Their full programme (in Dutch) is available here.
- ChristenUnie (Christian Union) – This fairly socially conservative party stands for Christian values in health care, work opportunities and in the province in a wider sense, and currently has five seats in the three municipalities. Their platform includes ensuring liveability, an emergency fund for youth counselling, facilities for refugees, supporting Frisian language and culture, strengthening connections between education and the business world, and improving travel connections in the region. The party’s full (Dutch-language) programme is available online.
- PvdA (Labour Party) – The Labour Party has five seats in this part of Friesland and has identified five themes for their platform: shelter (more single-occupant homes, elderly-friendly apartments, more tiny houses), education (multi-purpose school buildings, additional higher education opportunities), health care (preventative care, fighting loneliness), sustainability (government assistance to help transition to green energy sources), cultural activities, safety and job security. Along with the ELP, the Labour Party is in favour of providing free parking everywhere in the new municipality. Their programme is available in Frisian and Dutch.
- VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) – In Noordoost Friesland, the VVD has six seats and is primarily focused on increasing business activities in the region. The party is opposed to the municipality providing financial support for home owners who want to make their houses more environmentally-friendly. The party also opposes local efforts to provide jobs for highly-educated people. You can view their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- FNP (Frisian National Party) – This party’s name says a lot about its views: it sees Friesland as a country unto itself. Their core values are federalism (local governance), Frisian language and culture, health care, entrepreneurship, quality of life and sustainability. Somewhat surprisingly, the party is not in favour of giving local businesses priority for contracts. You can read the full programme here.
- S!N (Sociaal in Noardeast-Fryslân) – This party is a merger in itself with members of the Dongeradeel Sociaal Party, GroenLinks, SP, D66 and PvdA. The party’s priorities are civic engagement and governance, society, healthcare and well-being, job opportunities, housing and public space. More details on each of these themes is available on their site.
- Waddenpartij (Wadden Party) – This party’s focus is on the Waddenzee and all of the ways that it is impacted by human development, such as gas extraction, agriculture, liveability, housing, nature, wages and tourism. Although the Waddenpartij may seem like a single issue party, they are the only party that is opposed to the traditional depiction of Zwarte Piet. You can find out more in their Dutch-language programme.
- Eerste Lokale Partij (First Local Party) – The party’s name also tells you a lot about its priorities: local quality of life. Their profile is generally conservative: they are the only party in favour of opening new drilling locations for underground resources and do not want to make construction permits dependent on energy neutral status, and they oppose efforts to take on additional refugees in the province. For more specifics, visit their (Dutch) site.
- Gemeente Belangen Noardeast-Fryslân (Municipal Interests) – This is also a very locally-focused party and is a combination of Algemeen Belang Dongeradeel and Gemeente Belang Ferwerderadiel (five seats in total). The party’s platform seems to have a bit of a law and order theme: decrease criminality, limited government involvement in business and government transparency are part of their stance, along with accessibility to care, more cultural activities and supporting the tourism industry. They are the only party opposed to building new residential units that are suitable for residents in all phases of life, which includes ensuring they remain accessible for the elderly. For more details, visit their website (in Dutch).