What are the Provincial States?
There are 12 provinces in the Netherlands, and each province has its own council called the provinciale staten. The number of members in each provincial council depends on the local population: more residents, more representatives.
The Provinciale Staten (PS) are the highest authority in any given Dutch province. Together with the board of Gedeputeerde Staten (Provincial Executive), they are responsible for managing provincial affairs. The Provincial Executive carries out policy and cover day-to-day matters. The Provincial States set the framework for local policies, and monitor whether it is being enforced.
The members elected to the Provincial Council serve for four years, and are also responsible for appointing the members of the Provincial Executive and the members of the Upper Chamber of the Dutch parliament.
What are water boards?
In addition to the provincial council, the 15th March election includes voting on a uniquely Dutch branch of government: the Water Boards (also elected for four year terms).
The boards cover the provinces, sometimes spanning one of more, and are the oldest form of democratically elected local government in the Netherlands. Water boards are responsible for managing dunes, dikes, quays, and levees to maintain sustainable water levels; waterway and polder water level maintenance; and water waste and pollution treatment.
Sheep on a dike in Friesland (by Traci White)
Who can vote?
Anyone can vote for their water board: EU citizens and non-EU citizens alike. You just need to be registered within the Basisregistratie Personen (which gives you a BSN number). Only Dutch citizens can vote in the provincial-level elections.
If you did not receive a voting pass (stempas) by post, or yours is lost or damaged and you need to order a new voting pass, each municipality has its own page to request a replacement pass, so be sure to check how to get your from your local municipality.
Which parties are running?
The provinces have large sway and exceptionally large budgets, so electing someone you feel is representative of your views is important.
Below is a breakdown of the general orientation of all of the parties running across the north – some are only running in specific provinces (usually you can tell by their name, referring to where they are based), but most are national parties with local branches.
The following party orientations are based on the parties’ stated stances in the provincial voting compasses:
The voting compasses are in Dutch, but they are a really helpful tool for deciding which party best represents your views.
Far left progressive:
Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals)
AWP (Algemene Waterschapspartij voor Water, Klimaat en Natuur)
GroenLinks (Green Left)
D66 (Democrats 66)
ChristenUnie (Christian Union)
FNP (Frisian National Party)
Partij voor het Noorden (Party for the North)
SGP (Reformed Political Party)
CDA (Christian Democratic Appeal)
Sterk Lokaal Drenthe (Strong Local Drenthe)
Provinciaal Belang Fryslân (Provincial Interest Friesland)
BBB (BoerBurgerBeweging – Farmer Citizen Movement)
Groninger Belang (Groninger Interest)
VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy)
Far right conservative:
Belang van Nederland (Netherlands’ Interest)
PVV (Party for Freedom)
Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy)
What are the issues this year?
Even though the Netherlands is a representative democracy with dozens of parties representing a range of view points, many of the issues that political parties are covering in the platforms are more binary choices about who or what matters more: locals, or international employers? Nature, or farmers? Current residents or asylum seekers? Public transport or cars?
Here are the themes that the parties provided their stances on in the voting compasses, with examples of specific issues impacting the north:
Nature & agriculture:
nitrogen restrictions in agriculture and construction
creating more housing versus preserving green space
restricting movement of wolves to protect farm animals
Leadership & social affairs:
more money for culture and the arts
additional asylum seekers centers
the right to vote by referenda
Constructions & housing:
creating more social housing
new homes being built without connection to natural gas
Traffic & transport:
lower road taxes
more public transport
expanding cycling infrastructure
Sustainability & energy:
building solar panels in fields
more wind turbines
pushing polluting companies out of the area
investing in nuclear power
handling earthquake damage claims and keeping the gas underground
expanding hydrogen use
gas extraction in the Wadden area
Economy & financing:
capping the creation of distribution centers
attracting international companies
the future of Groningen Airport Eelde
Where can you vote?
There are polling stations all over the north, and you can vote at any station in the municipality where you are registered (not just the one closest to your home address). You can search on the website Waar is mijn stemlokaal (Where is my polling station) based on your address or post code to find the nearest station to you.
Why should you vote?
When it comes to the provincial states, these representatives are not just responsible for local matters: they also help to determine who is elected to the Dutch lower house (Eerste Kamer, Senate). While the upper house (Tweede Kamer, House of Representatives) gets the lion’s share of media attention, the Eerste Kamer’s site explains their important role: senators can “reject or accept legislation, and statements made by government ministers in debates draft legislation can play a role in future lawsuits. Members of the Senate are also entitled to put written questions to the Government. The debate on the Government’s budget also gives them the opportunity to debate current and future policy with the government.”
As for the water board elections, they are the first Dutch race that most internationals are able to vote in. And even if it may seem like a somewhat obscure level of governance, in a country that is mostly below sea levels, the water boards are actually extremely important: they maintain the earthen dikes and waterways that keep flood waters under control. As climate change has an increasingly significant impact on water levels and weather patterns, the water boards are more vital than ever.