Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Voting . . . Dutch Style

Keith and I did our civic duty today. Because we have been legal residents of the town of Westervoort for at least five years, we are eligible to vote in local elections, such as for members of the city council. A couple of weeks ago, the city mailed us each our stempas or voting pass. (Interestingly, stem also means "voice.")

The town thoughtfully included a list of candidates. Americans might look at this and think, "Wow! What a lot of candidates for city council! This must be a big town!!" Westervoort has a population of around 15,000. Seventeen people sit on the town council. 
The six columns are the six political parties involved in this election. The lists under the party names are the candidates each party is offering. We could choose one candidate (marked our choice with a red pencil, then folded our ballot up and dropped it into something that looked like a padlocked trash can with a big slit on top). 
Now here comes the difference between a parliamentarian democracy and whatever it is we do at home. Those 17 seats on the city council will be divided proportionally among the 5 parties according to the proportion of votes each party receives.  Last time the party on the right (Groen Links) won one seat. Suppose they win 2 seats this time. The two top-ranking Groen Links candidates will become part of the new town council. 
What effect does this have? Candidates rarely campaign. Parties campaign, largely based on their platforms. Personalities, especially in a local election, play very little part in the proceedings.
Smaller parties have a voice in the government. In order to increase their voice, parties sometimes form coalitions so that they will have a majority in the government. This is necessary on the national level and can lead to some really strange bedfellows. In Westervoort, three parties formed a coalition on the last town council (6 seats, 4 seats, 2 seats). 
We'll see what happens this time.

No comments:

Post a Comment