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 south western portion of the province are becoming one: Westerkwartier. Grootegast, Marum, Leek and Zuidhorn are merging into a single municipality. Leek is the biggest of the four with nearly 20,000 inhabitants, but all four have fairly sizable populations. Westerkwartier will have more than 62,000 residents altogether.
|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 Grootegast, Marum, Leek and Zuidhorn,there are 1,804 EU citizens eligible to vote.
What are the issues?
Like Groningen, Het Hogeland and Noardeast-Fryslân, the Westerkwartier is also voting on whether or not shops can set their own hours on Sunday and going gas-free on new construction projects. The parties are taking stances on infrastructure, energy, school resources, recreational space, agriculture, welfare, tourism, rental properties and the presence of town halls in each developed core area.
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 Westerkwartier (Christian Democratic Appeal) – A national party that tends to sit to the right of centre, the CDA’s programme in the Westerkwartier is focused on solidarity, shared responsibility, justice and environmental stewardship. However, the party is one of the only two (along with VZWesterkwartier) that does not want to ban natural gas connections to newly built homes, and the CDA (and VVD, D66 and ChristenUnie) are opposed to providing aid for people earning up to 130 percent above minimum wage. Their full manifesto is available here (in Dutch).
- PvdA Westerkwartier (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 Westerkwartier on social cohesion and sustainability. Like most parties, they are in favour of shops setting their own Sunday hours, as well as improving infrastructure and limiting industrial agriculture. To read the full manifesto, please see here (in Dutch).
- ChristenUnie (The Christian Union)- Socially to the right of centre, but progressive when concerning the environment and economy, ChristenUnie’s programme in Westerkwartier includes, keeping shops closed on Sunday, not standing in the way of building The download link in Dutch) for their manifesto is right here.
- D66 Westerkwartier (Democrats 66) – Part of the current coalition government in the Netherlands, D66 is a liberal party, and in Westerkwartier, D66’s programme includes providing transportation for students whose schools close due to low enrolment. The party is the only one opposed to adding a new road connection between Leek and Zuidhorn, and is not in favour of making more funding available for boosting tourism. The full manifesto can be found here (in Dutch).
- GroenLinks Westerkwartier (GreenLeft) – The national party that combines green and social-democratic policies, GroenLinks is standing in Westerkwartier on a platform of ensuring each village has its own town hall building, providing aid for people earning up to 130 percent above minimum wage and limiting industrial farming. Their full manifesto can be read here (in Dutch).
- VVD Westerkwartier (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) – The party of prime minister Mark Rutte, the local version of the party is the only one in the Westerkwartier fully opposed to building wind turbines at Middag-Humsterland. The party is also open to increasing industrial farming in the region and in favour of all efforts to expand roadway infrastructure. You can check out their full programme (in Dutch) here.
- Sterk Westerkwartier – This locally-focused party’s main themes are health care and housings, sustainability, a strong economy and social cohesion. Sterk is the only one in favour of expanding the A7 between Heerenveen and Groningen from a four lane road and six lane road.You can read more about their main points
- VZ Westerkwartier – This party was founded in 1999 in response to the long ruling bloc of the PvdA and CDA and used to be known as VZ2000 and was only active in Grootegast. The “VZ” stands for “safety” and “care”. Along with CDA, they are the only party that wants new build homes to have the option to connect to the gas grid, but they do not want to block the wind turbines.More details on their stances are here (in Dutch).
- 50PLUS – This is a national party that is primarily focused on issues impacting people over the age of 50. The party’s stances in Westerkwartier are lowering municipal levies for people with limited income, maintaining community centres, more job opportunities for older populations, affordable housing that is accessible for all ages, and more neighbourhood police officers.