Municipal elections: get represented!


Campaign strategists have been breaking their heads over this phenomenon for years: Young people hardly vote. During the last national elections in 2017, a lot of effort was put into getting the youth hyped up enough to actually get off the couch and tick a little box to vote for the party of their choosing. The government used Snapchat commercials, debates and speeches were livestreamed on Facebook 24/7 and the most famous initiative was that of TV-presenter Tim Hofman. He drove around in his ‘voting bus’ with a bunch of politicians and famous actors/radio DJ’s to talk about politics with students all over the country. You’d think that all this effort would have paid off somehow, right?

Well, it didn’t. The turnout amongst young people (18-24 years), was 66% compared to 70% in 2012. At the same time, the turnout of citizens aged 65 and above was 89% in 2017, and you’re not going to tell me that the generation 65+ is a lot more mobile than the youngest generation eligible to vote.

Now, if you really don’t want to vote, that is of course up to you. However, if you really want to see things change in the world, or even just be represented, it might be convenient if you actually act on it and vote. We see a lot of young people who are very involved with what is going on in their country, but stay home when it really comes to voting.

This process has repeated itself over and over again over the last couple of years. When the citizens in Britain had to vote in favour or against the Brexit, news headers were screaming ‘No Brexit if it’s up to the youths!’. And that’s true, most young people in Britain did vote against the Brexit. The problem is, there weren’t as much young people who voted against as there were older people who voted in favour. The turnout among the younger generations was around 36%, in contrast to 72% amongst the older generations.
But fear not, there is a chance for redemption and if you think that chance is in four years for the national elections, you’re in for a lovely surprise…

We can actually go to the voting booth again in just a shy two months! On 21 March, the municipal elections are held. Now for all you internationals reading this and thinking ‘Well, I can’t vote anyway so why would I bother reading this even further’ I have an extra surprise. A person is eligible to vote for the municipal elections if said person is 18 years or older and is living in the Netherlands at the moment of the elections. Being a Dutch citizen is not necessary, all you have to do is live here!
Many students do not realise how much influence the municipality has on their lives. The municipal elections are of equal or even more influence on your daily life than the national elections. Some of the issues that the municipality decides on are:

  • Hospitality establishments
    The municipality has the power to decide whether bars and clubs get a 24 hours license so they can stay open all night. The municipality also decides whether or not clubs should close their doors, like when Club Vie had to temporarily close down earlier this year.


  • Student housing
    Another thing the municipality decides about, is the division of student housing across the city. They decide about the number of rooms per neighbourhood and just this month there was a big debate about student housing for internationals because the offer is ‘too little and too expensive’.


  • Festivals and other big scale activities
    The municipality is always involved in organizing big annual festivals or other large scale activities in the city. Think for example of the North Sea Jazz festival, the International Film Festival and let’s not forget about our beloved Eurekaweek. The municipality decides where and until what time these kind of festivals can be held.


As I said, the elections are held on March 21st this year. If this day sounds somewhat familiar, that could be because at that same day you can also go to the voting booth for another national issue. It is on that same day that we can vote for the advisory referendum regarding the infamous new ‘dragging’ law, or ‘sleepwet’ in Dutch. If you’ve forgotten what all that was about, I’ve written an article about that new law and privacy not too long ago. So if you wanted to vote in favour or against that new law, you might as well also tick another box for the municipal elections, right? That’s two birds with one stone!

All in all, it’s not my place to tell you which party to vote for, that is a decision you can make all by yourself. However, what I am saying is that you could maybe just once, when you’re looking for ways to procrastinate studying, check out which parties are up against each other in the municipal elections of Rotterdam. Then you can check whether there is a party that you would feel comfortable with. I’ve even put a link in this article so you can see which parties you can choose from (the website is in Dutch but you can click the option to translate it into EngIish). I can’t make it much easier for you, all you have left to do is drag yourself to a voting booth on 21 March and get represented!

By Lucy van Eck


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