Voting with Volkers – Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen: What are they and why should you care?

Voting with Volkers – Gemeenteraadsverkiezingen: What are they and why should you care?

On March 16th 2022, all municipalities in the Netherlands will hold gemeenteraadsverkiezingen. But what are these strange-sounding “gemeenteraadsverkiezingen”. How can you vote for them? And why should you even care? Read along for the answers in our brand new series: Voting with Volkers!

Briefly put, gemeenteraadsverkiezingen are the elections for the municipal council. Every four years, voters in all of the Netherlands’ 345 municipalities go to the polls to elect a municipal council for their municipality. The number of seats that are at stake in each election can range from 9 to 45, depending on the population size of the municipalities. Amsterdam is a municipality with more than 200.000 inhabitants, which means that the municipal council in Amsterdam has 45 seats.

Once a municipal election is over and the votes are counted, the formation of a coalition (called a “college”) begins. The task of this coalition is to govern the municipality alongside the mayor. This governing can concern a wide variety of policy areas, such as roads, crime and safety, energy, the local economy and housing. The job of the municipal council can be split up into three parts: the municipal council serves to represent the people of the municipality, it comes up with the general direction of municipal policies, and it controls the college and checks if they do their duties right.

For Dutch citizens, voting in the municipal elections is the same as voting in elections for the Tweede Kamer. You have to be 18 years old, live in the municipality where you are voting, and not be excluded from your right to vote. And do not worry internationals, you are also allowed to vote. For EU citizens, requirements for voting are similar to those for Dutch citizens: you have to be 18 years old, live in the municipality where you are voting, be officially registered as living in the Netherlands (Basisregistratie Personen), and not be excluded from your right to vote. For people who are neither Dutch nor EU citizens, it is possible to vote in the municipal elections after five years of living in the Netherlands, so for non-EU students, voting will be more difficult. In any case, if you are allowed to vote, you will receive an invitation to vote, also known as the “stempas”, in the weeks before the elections.

Although to many young people the municipal elections might sound like a dull and irrelevant affair, it is quite the opposite. As mentioned before, the municipal council comes up with the general direction of municipal policies, many of which have a great impact on the lives of students. Municipalities are important actors when it comes to matters such as solving the housing crisis, reducing poverty, creating new jobs, increasing public safety and making the Netherlands more sustainable. Especially the big municipalities like Amsterdam have a lot of power in these policy areas.

So if you as a student want to have a say in how your municipality uses these powers to address the issues that are important to you, a good start would be to look into the different political parties running in your municipality and what they will do to address the issues that you care about. This way you can make your voice heard and participate in the democratic process. Still confused? Don’t worry, watch out for the next Voting with Volkers piece, where I will cover the parties running in Amsterdam!