By Ronja Boer
On Wednesday 16 March, our trusty Café Polder was the perfect place to participate in democracy before grabbing a drink in the sunny weather. In addition to Dutch students, for municipal elections all EU/EEA citizens and those who have been Dutch residents for over five years received voting passes. How does the AUC student body view these local elections? The Herring asked those passing by to share their thoughts.
Most students felt that voting was an important societal responsibility for them. The Dutch second-year student Nele Zuidweg mentioned that voting and political participation is a part of being an active member of society. Referring to conversations about the elections at AUC, Zuidweg remarks: “We did not talk much in depth about the municipality elections, except that I was surprised to learn that EU citizens could vote too. Most people I spoke about the elections with will be voting I believe.”
Thus non-Dutch students visited the voting booth as well. One of them was Lena Riss, a second-year student from Austria. “At first I did not have time to look into anything, so I thought I would not vote because I do not want to give an uneducated vote. But once I had the chance to look into it and I knew what I wanted and thought I might as well use my vote”, Riss explains. Most students agreed that a vote should be informed, and most read up by taking the Stemwijzer, a sort of quiz to establish what parties best reflect your standpoints. As an international student it can be hard to find your way through the Dutch Stemwijzer and party websites. Riss was lucky to understand Dutch well enough to do the Stemwijzer and get an idea of which party represented her views the most. Others, such as first year Miriam Crane, could find assistance in Dutch friends who translated the quizzes and standpoints for them.
And the issue most important for students is no surprise: the housing market. The awareness among students on the inflating housing market seemed to be a big factor in determining who to vote for in these elections, whether students had family living in the city or knew they would be leaving the city shortly after. Climate change and sustainability were also important themes.
For Lionel Deul, a Dutch second year, this was his first time voting and he had a mission. “After the last elections and the ‘toeslagen-affaire’ (allowance-affair) I became quite angry about Dutch politics.” As such, Lionel felt that, even if these were small-scale elections, he could try to make a change by casting his vote for Amsterdam. Mikkie Jongstra, a third-year student, expressed a similar perspective on the importance of voting. “When I vote I try to highlight new voices that are now lacking in parliament or the municipality.”
Both Deul and Jongstra also mentioned discrimination as an important factor. Acknowledging and apologising for Amsterdam’s history of slavery and talking more about racism needed to be addressed, according to them. The diversification Jongstra mentioned when casting his vote, means he looks specifically into what person to vote for and whether they reflect a more diverse Amsterdam. “I feel like in AUC most people are left voters like me, so the conversation is not so much about whether you vote left or right, but what party and person you vote for.” For Deul the establishment of Keti Koti as a national holiday is a part of this.*
The current provisional results seem to reflect the standpoints that were highlighted by our student body. It looks like left-leaning parties are winning more seats than more right wing parties, with the more traditionally leftist party PvdA currently in the lead, followed shortly by last election’s winner GroenLinks, a party most associated with progressive change and fighting climate change. Newer party BIJ1, whose agenda is largely focussed on addressing systematic racism and discrimination, is expected to win two extra seats. In Amsterdam-Oost specifically Groenlinks takes a large win as they now stand at 28% percent of the votes. The official results of all municipalities will be announced next Monday, 21 March.
Provisional result, Municipal Elections: Amsterdam 2022
Provisional result, District Commission Elections: Amsterdam-Oost 2022
*Keti Koti is a Surinamese celebration of the abolishment of slavery on the first of July.