Municipal Elections: Go Vote!
Did you know that 1 out of 5 children in Groningen grows up in poverty?
Did you know that the city of Groningen funded Airport Eelde with 6 million euros this year?
Did you know that there are some ideas for student housing on Zernike Campus as well as a train route towards Zernike?
Did you ever experience one of the earthquakes caused by the extraction of gas in the region of Groningen?
Wouldn’t it be great to have a say in all this?
Well, on November 21st you have the chance to do so! The municipal elections are planned for this date, and if you are:
- older than 18,
- registered in the Municipal Database with an address in Groningen, Haren or Ten Boer
- and have Dutch nationality, or the nationality of another member state of the EU or have lived in the Netherlands for five consecutive years
then you should have received a letter with a voting pass inside which you need to vote.
What else do you need?
Maybe you’re thinking: It doesn’t matter who I vote for as this is just a municipal election, it won’t change anything anyways. You’re wrong, it does matter. The nice sides of student life in Groningen are largely influenced by local politics: having a barbecue in the Noorderplantsoen, cycling everywhere without having to fear getting run over by a truck, dancing in a club until the sun is up again because the club does not have to close at a given time. However, some of the negative things of student life (as an international) can also be influenced by local politics: difficulties in communication when opening a bank account or getting healthcare, not feeling welcome, and of course the housing crisis. In all these topics, the municipality has almost more important saying than politicians in The Hague.
Maybe you’re thinking: it doesn’t matter who I vote for now as in 6 months I won’t be in Groningen anymore, because I’m done with my studies or doing a minor abroad or a master somewhere else. You’re wrong, it does matter. Maybe you won’t benefit from it anymore, but every single international student coming to Groningen the next 4 years who benefits from a better housing situation or a more welcoming atmosphere towards internationals does.
Maybe you’re thinking: I don’t really have the right to vote, as I am only a temporary citizen here and I don’t really know what’s going on in Groningen anyways. You’re (not totally) wrong. This is what this article is about. It clarifies for you whether you can vote or not, and it gives you an overview over the different parties and what they stand for.
Your voice matters, and it matters just as much as the voice of someone who was born and raised and is becoming old in Groningen. You are a part of Groningen now, and you are one of those, that make Groningen as unique as it is: an international student! If you don’t go and stand tall for your rights and values on November 21st, who will do it instead? Your 60-year-old neighbour who is annoyed by all your loud parties? I don’t think so...
No excuses anymore. Just do it and vote!
For more information on where and when exactly you can vote, you can visit https://gemeente.groningen.nl/english/municipal-elections. Most polling stations are open from 7.30 am to 9 pm and the polling station closest to your address is stated on your voting pass, however, you can vote in any polling station you want to.
You also want some information on who you can vote and what their ideas are?
If you know Dutch, you can go to https://groningen.stemwijzer.nl/#intro and answer some questions on politics which will then lead you to the party whose opinions on those statements were most similar to yours.
If you don’t know Dutch, check out https://gpjk.nl/me2018.html - this is an organization for young people interested in (working in) politics. They have an article with information on the Municipal Elections and some of the main parties.
And if you don’t want to click on other links anymore, below I listed all parties you can vote for with some information on their main topics for the city.
There are 13 parties running for seats in the municipality. Some of them are the regional parts of big, nationwide parties and others are regional parties only existing in Groningen. Some parties have an English program or a summary of their statements on their websites, others sent it to me via e-mail after I asked, and some parties unfortunately never reacted. I tried my best to translate their Dutch programs and filter out the most important parts, hence, I can’t guarantee for completeness and truth of the statements I put down. However, the next days you will probably see people from the various parties in the streets of Groningen, so if you have further questions, feel free to ask them, someone will always be happy to help you!
D66 – Democraten 66
D66 is a nationwide party with a liberal-democratic emphasis. It was founded in 1966, which explains the name. The main topic of D66 for the elections in Groningen is education. This includes pre-school education and a safe traffic zone around schools, but also a welcoming environment for (international) students. More affordable housing for students and extra housing on Zernike Campus is something they pay attention to, but also a more active involvement of residents in their local politics. The bike has priority number one as a mean of transport and sustaining a green and clean city is important to them as well.
SP – Socialistische Partij
The SP is the nationwide socialist party of the Netherlands. For Groningen, they want more and better social housing as well as student housing to be built and stricter regulations and control of landlords. Healthcare has to be more accessible for everyone, especially for elderly, with the help of local healthcare teams in every neighbourhood. They want to stop the extraction of gas in the region of Groningen, support the cultural life in the municipality by investing in events and cultural groups, not in new buildings, and create more jobs. In general, they say that the people have to be in the foreground of political decisions again, not the profit.
PvdA – Partij van de Arbeid
This nationwide party is the Labour Party of the Netherlands. Therefore, fighting the poverty in Groningen is a very important topic for them. They want to enlarge support for families with schoolchildren, so that every child has the same chance in education, make sure that someone can live well from what he earns from work and protect (international) students against landlords that ask for a too high rent. Further, they think it’s important to get people that live together in a neighbourhood in contact, so that they can look out for each other.
GroenLinks (GreenLeft) is a nationwide party with a quite self-explaining name. Here in Groningen they stand for reducing the extraction and use of gas to lower the risk of earthquakes; stimulation of cycling and stopping to fund Airport Eelde. They want to encourage and enable the citizens of Groningen to make decisions on local affairs and implement neighbourhood care teams that make healthcare more accessible to everybody. Basically, they want Groningen to be open and welcoming to everybody and enable everyone to become whoever they aspire to be.
VVD – Volkspartij voor Vrijheid en Democratie
The VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) is a nationwide party and Mark Rutte, the current Prime Minister of the Netherlands, is from this party. Their core values are a liberal society in which everyone can live the life he wants to. This includes a high tolerance towards diverse sexuality, religion, nationality, gender etc., but also asks responsibility from each residence towards his own life. For the elections in Groningen, their main statement is ‘living well’. For international students this includes better and more accommodation, safe traffic on the main routes towards Zernike and other university buildings and a promotion of co-operations between businesses and education. Further, their focus lies on a more liberal business policy, more police on the streets for a feeling of safety and on decreasing the debt the municipality of Groningen is in.
Hart voor Stad en Ommeland
This is a local party especially focused on a good integration of the smaller municipalities of Haren and Ten Boer, which will join the municipality of Groningen from these elections on. They want to give the citizens of Groningen, Haren and Ten Boer more chances to decide about what happens in their city, for example when the municipality wants to build a new big building. They further agree with building student housing on Zernike, more money for healthcare and places and an open atmosphere for entrepreneurs.
CDA – Christen-Democratisch Appèl
The CDA is a nationwide party with a Christian democratic profile. Their slogan for the municipal elections is ‘Voor wat ècht belangrijk is’, what can be translated to ‘for what is really important’. Issues they raise with this statement are accessible healthcare for everyone with a special emphasis on loneliness, co-operation of municipality and (sports) clubs and entrepreneurs and a responsible handling of the money of Groningen. All in all, they want to create a municipality that takes care of its citizens and in which everyone feels home.
CU - ChristenUnie
The ChristenUnie is a nationwide party with a Christian background. Their main slogan for the elections in Groningen is ‘Oog voor elkaar’, which can be translated to ‘Keep an eye on each other’. They believe that in a society everyone is not only responsible for their own well-being, but also should look out for others and help those in need. Main topics for this local election are improving accessibility to healthcare, especially for poor individuals, but also for students. Further, they also see the need for more student houses to be built in Groningen, but they also want to tackle the housing problem by providing the international students with more and better information on the housing situation before they even get to Groningen. They want to decrease the use of cars in the city, stop prostitution in Groningen and support a better law enforcement for example of the law that clearly drunk people must not get more alcohol in bars or nightshops to prevent them from accidents or becoming victims of crime.
Student & Stad
This regional party is entirely run by students! Therefore, they are representing the views of students and young people in the city and on making Groningen an even better place for students, for example by creating more student friendly jobs and better student accommodation. However, they do not want to lose contact to the other residents of the municipality, and topics like giving bikes priority in city planning as well as having the plan for Groningen to be energy-neutral by 2035 will benefit all people in Groningen.
PvdD - Partij voor de Dieren
Partij voor de Dieren (‘Party for the Animals’) is a nationwide party focused on putting the wellbeing of the entire planet for the long-run as first priority and not short-time solutions for the next election campaign. Here and now in Groningen they want to work towards their goal by stopping the gas production in Groningen, renewing old and vacant buildings to overcome the housing problem instead of building new houses and decreasing the green areas in the city, lowering the taxes on dogs and stop supporting Airport Eelde financially. However, it’s not all about trees and animals, they do focus on people as well and in this field, they focus especially on increasing support for art, stimulating transport by bike and reducing discrimination for whatever reason there might be, as all humans have the same rights.
As the name already declares, the Sportpartij is all about sports and getting people to move. Founded this year only, they hope to contribute to lifting up the value sports has in Groningen by investing in sports infrastructure, not only focused on gyms and pitches, but also on playgrounds for kids and movement programs for elderly. The goal of the Sportpartij is to make Groningen the capital of sports in the Northern part of the Netherlands, not only in regard to top-sports, but a more general approach that contributes to a better health for all inhabitants of the municipality.
PVV - Partij Voor de Vrijheid
You might have heard of Geert Wilders. This is the Groningen part of the party he is in – or more so the party he is. He is the only member of the PVV (Party for Freedom) and the people taking seats in parliaments etc are instructed by him, but not official members of the PVV. The PVV can in general be described as nationalist and right-wing populist party. Especially quite extreme opinions against the Islam and immigration from Muslim-majority countries are often heard from Geert Wilders. However, when it’s about topics like healthcare, economy and equality of men and women, his ideology can be defined as quite left. In Groningen, they want to reduce the money the municipality puts in projects like the Groninger Forum, they want the RUG and Hanze to pay for student housing on Zernike Campus and they want to have more police on the streets.
100 % Groningen
Guess what - 100% Groningen is a local party. Their slogan ‘Local People, Local Solutions’ makes this quite clear as well. Solutions they propose for the biggest problems of Groningen are stricter enforcement of the rules against landlords that charge illegal fees or too high rent, more buses in the city at peak hours as well as a train connection to Zernike and programs to connect international students with the Dutch.
Polling stations are open from 07:30-21:00 on November the 21st, wednesday. Bring both your ID and your voting pass! You can find the nearest polling station on your voting pass but you can vote at any polling station you wish!