Answering all your questions about the upcoming Dutch elections
In amidst all the coronavirus talks, it might be easy to forget that a national election is just around the corner. As an expat in the Netherlands, you likely have many questions about the upcoming elections, the effect they may have on your life here, and the role you could play in voting.
Here are all your questions about the upcoming national elections - answered!
When is the election?
The official election day is March 17, 2021. However, because of COVID-19, the Dutch government decided to open polling stations slightly earlier in order to avoid crowds. Polling stations will therefore be open from March 15 to March 17.
Can I vote?
To be eligible to vote in most elections in the Netherlands, you must be a Dutch citizen. This also applies to national elections: no matter how long you've lived in the Netherlands, you must be a Dutch national and have a Dutch passport.
If this applies to you, you can vote!
How and where can I vote?
If you're eligible to vote this month, there are a couple of things you'll need to remember to take with you when you go to cast your ballot.
In the run-up to the election, you'll have received your voting pass in the mail to your home address. When you vote, make sure to take this pass with you, as well as a legitimate form of ID (i.e. a passport or driving license), and a face mask. You won't need to take a pen with you, as red pencils will be provided.
Armed with these items, you can head to one of the 11 thousand polling stations across the Netherlands on March 15, March 16, or March 17.
When you receive your voting card in the mail, it'll be accompanied by a list of all the polling stations in your municipality. No matter where you live, you'll be able to vote at any polling station within your municipality. Alternatively, you could apply for a voter pass which will allow you to vote at any polling station in the Netherlands.
Voting by proxy
Can't make it to vote on polling day? That's fine too! You can provide someone else with the power to cast your vote for you.
Voting by mail
Because of the health risks caused by coronavirus, people over the age of 70 will be able to vote by mail in this election.
If you choose to do this, you have to make sure your vote is mailed by 5pm on March 12. You can also hand in your postal vote at one of the municipal drop-off points, which are open from 9am to 5pm from March 10 to March 16, and from 7.30am to 9pm on March 17.
What am I voting for?
The 2021 election is a national election, which means that all Dutch citizens over the age of 18 will be voting for the members of the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). These elections are held every four years.
The House of Representatives and Senate (Eerste Kamer) make up the Dutch parliament. In the election in March, a total of 150 seats will be up for grabs, with MPs elected by proportional representation (any party that wins 0,67 percent of the national vote is guaranteed a seat).
After all the votes have been counted and the seats have been allocated, the political party with the most seats will negotiate with other parties to form a coalition so that together the parties hold the majority in the House. The leader of the largest party will also become the Prime Minister of the Netherlands.
Who can I vote for?
This year, 37 parties have registered to take part in the national elections. Under these 37 parties, there are a total of 1.579 candidates running for a seat in the House. With your vote, you can support one of the candidates running for one of the participating parties.
The parties running in the 2021 elections are:
- People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD)
- Party for Freedom (PVV)
- Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA)
- Socialist Party (SP)
- Labour Party (PvdA)
- Christian Union (CU)
- Party for the Animals (PvdD)
- Reformed Political Party (SGP)
- Forum for Democracy (FvD)
- Code Oranje
- Pirate Party
- Libertarian Party (LP)
- Lijst Henk Krol
- JEZUS LEEFT
- Proud of the Netherlands (TROTS)
- U-Buntu Connected Front
- Unnamed party, known as Blanco lijst
- Partij van de Eenheid
- The Party Party (DFP)
- Vrij en Sociaal Nederland
- Wij Zijn Nederland
- Modern Nederland
- De Groenen
- Partij voor de Republiek
Who are the main parties?
There may be 37 parties taking part in this election, but chances are that there are only a handful of names on the above list that really stand out for you.
There are currently 13 parties who hold seats in the House, and two independents. These 13 parties are regarded as the most prominent political parties in the Netherlands.
The 13 parties in the House are:
- VVD (32 seats)
- PVV (20 seats)
- CDA (19 seats)
- D66 (19 seats)
- GroenLinks (14 seats)
- SP (14 seats)
- PvdA (9 seats)
- CU (5 seats)
- PvdD (4 seats)
- SGP (3 seats)
- DENK (3 seats)
- 50PLUS (3 seats)
- FvD (2 seats)
Which smaller parties are the ones to watch?
2021 sees a record number of parties registered to take part in the election, with 24 new parties fighting to have their voices be heard. But which of these parties stand a chance of winning a seat and making it into the house?
BIJ1 also took part in the 2017 election but under a different name (Article1). The party's main aim is to fight racism in the Netherlands, as it strives to provide equal rights and equal opportunities for all citizens. Manifesto points include the government apologising for the Netherlands' history with slavery, increasing the minimum wage to 14 euros per hour, and lowering the state pension age to 65.
Volt is a pan-European party and is largely known for being pro-EU. The party believes in collaboration across countries to tackle the biggest issues politics faces at the moment, such as climate change and coronavirus, saying that "today's major problems do not adhere to national borders."
The leader of Code Oranje is former PVV member Richard de Mos, and would like to see more power devolved to local communities and municipalities, as De Mos feels too many decisions are taken nationally. The party would therefore see more money allocated to regions and municipalities, but also takes a stand against immigration and against the EU.
JA21 is a new party, founded by former FvD members at the end of last year. After a number of scandals have perhaps threatened the integrity and reputation of FvD, its possible that JA21 could pick up a couple of votes from former FvD voters. The party's main manifesto points are about limiting and controlling immigration and question the Netherlands' membership in the EU.
What are the main issues in this election?
Obviously, one of the main topics being discussed in the run-up to the election is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Parties are keen to put their own plans forward for how they would handle the virus and the crisis if they were in power: would they lockdown to protect the Dutch healthcare system, or would they reopen to protect the Dutch economy and businesses?
The economy is therefore also a significant issue this year, with each party putting forward their plan for how to stimulate the economy post-coronavirus and how that might impact taxes or pensions, for example.
For the VVD, the recent childcare benefit scandal is also a recurring issue, as party leader and acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte faces tough questions about how the crisis will be handled moving forward, and how and when the families affected by the crisis will be compensated.
In addition to these topical issues, there are a handful of other topics that are also important in this election, namely the national housing crisis and lack of affordable housing, and the country's climate policy.
2021 election marks an exciting moment in Dutch politics
Regardless of whether or not you can vote, this election marks an exciting moment in Dutch politics. The general belief is that Rutte and the VVD will hold on to their majority, but of course, anything could happen! We'll just have to wait and see who the people of the Netherlands vote for in these unprecedented and unpredictable times.