The new party system forces students in the U Council to show their true colours, says Smaling, who has been frequenting the University Council meetings since 2016. “In recent years, many of the University Council discussions took place behind closed doors. For example, the meeting of the students is private, as are task force meetings.” The task forces are like sub committees in the council, where certain long-term themes are discussed like sustainability, mental health and finance. “In the plenary meeting, a condensed version of the debate is presented, when it is no longer always clear who took which position. The new parties will want to distinguish themselves from each other and make their position known,” Smaling expects.

During the campaign, a change should also be noticeable, but this year it has not been very prominent. “These parties were only established just before the elections and didn’t have much time to prepare a campaign. We will need to wait till next year for that.” However, Smaling noticed how the new parties observed each other during the campaign. “I was bombarded with messages from party members, about what wasn’t right about quotes from other parties. That they claimed subjects that weren’t theirs or were factually incorrect.”

More local themes

The subjects that used to engage students have changed in recent years, Smaling has noticed. “Students have always been activists. But a few years ago, they were mainly concerned with big social themes like sustainability, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, themes which apply to society as a whole. Since Covid, more local themes seem to be playing a role, like concern for mental health among students and staff, online or offline education and the impact of Covid measures on students. Moreover, one of the three parties, Liberi Erasmi, was founded out of dissatisfaction with Covid measures.” These are subjects in which the University Council may be able to play a greater role.

The virtual polling booth is open until 23.59 on Tuesday evening. Votes are needed, because the new party system does not yet seem to have much of an effect on the turnout, which until Monday afternoon was 4.5 percent (2 percent lower than the total turnout last year).

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