The headline said: ‘Dutch Voter Turnout Lowest Ever.’ If the upcoming City Council Elections would be held today, voter apathy in Netherlands would be almost – well – like America. Thanks for making me feel so at home…
Here’s the headline I’m missing: ‘Internationals, this is the ONE election where you can vote!’ On the 19th of March, EU citizens can vote for City Council – AND you for your Stadsdeel Council. NON-EU citizens, you can vote for City Council (with 5 years residence). And for your Stadsdeel Council (with 3 years residence).
When D66 Amsterdam asked me to raise awareness among Internationals for 19 March, I said yes. Of all the political parties in Amsterdam, D66 was the first to put their campaign platform online in English. Amsterdam party leader Jan Paternotte actually asked me to stand as a candidate, number 49 on the list. How many seats are there on Amsterdam City Council? 45. Thank goodness, there’s no danger of me actually being elected. But if I can support Amsterdam D66, I will.
It’s D66 that organizes Amsterdam’s ongoing ‘Stadsgeprek’ series, bringing prominent Internationals together with prominent Amsterdam natives. There are a lot of us Internationals in Amsterdam. Yet only one party has treated me like I have a voice in my adopted homeland.
D66 has made a point of labeling itself as ‘the Education’ party, and I support their choice. I am a fan of Dutch schools. In fact, many people are. So many, in fact, that class sizes are now growing out of control. My 9 year-old boy is in a class with 30 kids. His teacher has had stress-related illnesses and eventually quit in the middle of the school year, due to a burn out. There are kids in my son’s class who are designated as ‘dyslexic.’ Some may need a special class. But – thanks to budget cuts – the special needs kids are being lumped in with the existing classes, which will now be getting even bigger. Many parties say they want to do something about this problem. It’s D66 that’s been the most consistent.
The 19th of March is a chance for real change in the City of Amsterdam. Since 1946, Amsterdam City Council has been led by Labor PvdA. No one can deny they have done great things for the city. But they’ve been running City Council longer than the Communists have run China. Unlike the Communists in China, Amsterdam PvdA is not so good at large infrastructure projects. The Noord/Zuid Metro line is a painful debacle, costing Amsterdam billions of euros the city doesn’t have. It was supposed to be done in 10 years; now it’s going to be 20. It was supposed to cost 1.5 billion; now it’s costing 3 billion. Amsterdam has become the Greece of the Netherlands.
Perhaps there’s a reason Labor PvdA is joining in the scare-mongering about Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants. Perhaps they’d like us to be thinking about pickpockets. When in fact the ones who are stealing out of wallets is Labor PvdA.
In addition to the poll numbers about voter apathy, there is growing evidence that Amsterdam might be ready for a change at the top. If elections were held today, D66 might just be the biggest party in Amsterdam. If you think your vote doesn’t count, think again. I’m voting for D66.