Elections in Groningen: you are allowed to vote, but why should you?

Groningen grants internationals the right to vote in elections for a new municipality council. Sixteen parties compete for the votes of Groningen’s citizens.

The council of the municipality of Groningen has 45 seats. On March 14, 15 and 16 the citizens can change the council’s composition through free general elections. Dutch and EU-citizens over the age of 18 can vote. And so can non-EU students who have resided in the Netherlands for over five years.

But should they?

Housing crisis
Since Groningen is infamous for its excessive amount of international students, many of the sixteen (!) parties stand for the interests of this group.

Affordable housing, fair living conditions… that’s in the hands of the voters

‘The elections can directly affect the living conditions of international students,’ GroenLinks party’s Elte Hillekens states. ‘Affordable housing, fair living conditions… that’s in the hands of the voters.’

A party closely related to students, Student en Stad, regards housing as one of the most urgent problems. Universities invite students to study in Groningen, but they do not provide solutions for this crisis. For the party’s number one, Steven Bosch, this is unacceptable. ‘It’s a disgrace that the municipality is not taking the responsibility in fixing the issue once and for all.’

Student life
The debate as to whether more festivals should be held in the inner-city parks has been the topic of discussions for a while. D66 thoroughly believes that festivals bring much enthusiasm to the city. ‘The festivals can really put Groningen on the map’, says Jim Lo-A-Njoe, the number two on the D66 ballot.

Festivals can really put Groningen on the map

Though some parties support having a vibrant student life in the city, they do oppose the festival idea. The Socialist Party (SP), for instance. SP believes that the festivals could result in a lot of noise pollution, creating nuisance for people who live near the parks. They argue that ‘the festivals should be held at alternative locations’.

Religious freedom
When it comes to religious representation, it’s debatable whether or not Groningen should continue to forbid community service officers from wearing a kippah or a headscarf during work.

They state that they are in favour of an inclusive city where equality is a top priority

The Labour Party (PvdA) believes that everybody should be given the freedom to express themselves. They are in favour of an inclusive city where equality is a top priority.

Groningen elections
PvdA promotion on Groningen streets

The People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD (the party of Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte), state on their website that officers must appear neutral. So, when in function, officers can’t express their religious orientation. 

A more sustainable city centre
GroenLinks and Student en Stad want the city centre to be transformed into a car-free zone. Already Groningen is not known for its car-friendly policy, to put it mildly. But these two parties believe that further reducing cars in the inner city will result in a healthier and quieter area.
The majority of parties think otherwise. PvdA, D66 and SP believe that cutting off car access will harm residents who are highly dependend on their vehicles. However, these parties are also in favour of traffic restrictions in the area.

What Groningen will look like over the next few years depends on the voters

To vote on March 14, 15 and 16, one needs to find and go to their nearest polling station. Bring a valid ID card, a driver’s license or residence permit with you. And, please do not forget the voting pass you received by mail.

Don’t know which party to vote for? Gemeente Groningen created a vote pointer in English. It includes thirty political questions to find out which party is most aligned with your values.

‘What Groningen will look like over the next few years depends on the voters’, Steven Bosch (Student en Stad) says when asked why internationals should go out and vote. ‘You can decide for yourselves whether or not students will be represented in the city council. By the way, did I mention that we advocate for a safe and diverse nightlife?’