You have probably seen the posters around town: the municipal elections are drawing near. Tomorrow, on March 19th, most municipalities in the Netherlands go to the ballot box. EM asks and answers five questions about the elections in Rotterdam.
What are municipal elections?
Every four years, municipal elections are held. In these elections you can vote for the city council (Gemeenteraad) and for the gebiedscommissie. The city council has an authority which is binding for the whole municipality. It consists out of 45 members and is the highest power in the municipality. All members of the city council are part of a political party. The mayor of Rotterdam is also the chairman of the city council. The gebiedscommissie only has an advisory role to the city council. It is elected for every deelgemeente (district) of the municipality. The district Kralingen-Crooswijk would be an example of a deelgemeente. Every district currently has its own council, but after the municipal elections of 2014, these will be replaced by the gebiedscommissies.
Can I vote?
Probably you can. Not only Dutch citizens are eligible to vote. If you are an EU-citizen over the age of 18 who is registered in Rotterdam, your voice counts. Non EU-citizens are also eligible to vote if they have officially lived in the Netherlands for at least 5 years.
If these criteria apply to you, you might already have received a stempas by mail. The stempas is a voting pass, which enables you to vote. You have to carry the stempas with you to the election office, otherwise you will not be allowed to vote.
Do not forget to bring your passport or identity card. Only with a stempas and an official identification you are able to place your vote at the election office. In case that you cannot make it to the elections, there is the possibility to hand out an authorization to someone to vote for you.
Where can I vote?
At a lot of places. You can even vote on campus Woudestein, if you want. There will be a total of 361 election offices (stembureaus) in Rotterdam. These are 71 more than in the last municipal elections. The mayor stated that Rotterdam wants to avoid long waiting times with these measures. Election offices can be found throughout the city, including four mobile ones. On the stempas, the election office (stembureau), closest to your home is indicated. Besides this indication, you are allowed to vote at any election office in you municipality with your stempas.
Stembureaus are open between 7.30 AM and 9 PM. For a list with all the election offices you can look for Adressen stembureaus Rotterdam on www.rotterdam.nl.
Who can I vote for?
The biggest parties in Rotterdam are the social democratic Labour Party (PvdA) and the right wing party Liveable Rotterdam (Leefbaar Rotterdam). Besides these two there are many smaller parties who are currently in the city council.
The Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA), the Socialist Party (SP), the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD), GreenLeft (GroenLinks), the Christian Union (CU) and the Reformed Political Party (SGP), and Democrats ’66 (D66, liberals) are currently part of the city council. The College of Mayor and Aldermen consists of a coalition of PvdA, D66, VVD and CDA. Except for Leefbaar Rotterdam, all parties operate on a national level as well. The major parties also participate in the elections of the gebiedscommisie. Besides them there are different smaller parties who only run in the gebiedscommissie elections. A list with these parties can be found online. Just check for kandidatenlijst gebiedscommissie at www.rotterdam.nl.
I’m an international student, why should I vote?
The municipal government is directly influencing your life as a student in Rotterdam. Their decisions shape the city in which you live. Its powers vary from parking spots to affordable housing, and from dog taxes to subsidies for local initiatives. The spectre of issues is really broad, since the municipality can use most of its budget the way it sees fit.
The gebiedscommissies are directly affiliated with a neighbourhood. They can thus directly influence the city on a small scale, although after March 19th only in an advisory role. But this means the gebiedscommissie has an influence in your closest surroundings. This influence can range from creating bike parking spots towards issuing licenses for bars. ET