By Gabriele Cruciata & Rebekah Daunt.
The European Student Network (ESN) hosted an election debate on Tuesday 30th of October at Club Casa in Groningen city centre at 8pm. This debate revolved around the upcoming municipality election which will take place on the 21st of November.
Anyone who is over the age of 18, who has registered with the municipality of Groningen, who is from an EU member state or has been living in the Netherlands for at least 5 years will be allowed to vote in the municipal election.
The last municipal election was held on the 21st of March, however 55 of the 388 Dutch municipalities were unable to hold municipal elections due to a reshuffle and redistribution of municipalities. On the 10th of July 2018, the Dutch Senate approved the bill for the merger of the municipalities of Groningen, Haren and Ten Boer.
Constituents, students and expats alike are welcome to attend the various debates which will be hosted throughout the city in the weeks prior to the election. These debates provide space for potential voters to learn about the various issues affecting the municipality of Groningen. Attendees will have the opportunity to raise questions at various stages throughout the debates or alternatively filled out a form prior to the event encouraging their representatives to tackle broader issues.
David Jan Meijer, secretary for the ESN, spoke to The Stand before the ESN election debate on the 30th of October “There will be a number of speakers, each representing a different political party,the debate will be chaired by a neutral presenter. Each representative will take some time to present their ideas and policies to the floor”.
Nine of the thirteen political parties running in the election were represented at the debate: Groen Links (Green Party), Partij van de Arbeid (Dutch Labour Party), Christen-Democratisch Appèl (Democratic Christian Party), Socialistische Partij (Socialist Party), Democraten 66 (Democratic 66), Student en Stad (Student Party) 100% Groningen, Partijvoor de Dieren (Party for Animals) and the Volkspartij voor Vrijheiden Democratie (Party for Freedom and Democracy).
27 people attended the ESN debate, many of whom were affiliated with the political parties themselves. 250 people tuned into the debate via a live stream on Facebook.
Koen Marée representative from the Democratische Acadamie Groningen spoke about the significance of this election and how important it is for international students to vote “Municipality elections will determine our future, the future of housing, integration and job opportunities. Students should therefore inform themselves and use their right to vote”.
But are students aware that they can vote?
The Stand spoke with a number of different students from Hanze University and the University of Groningen about the election. “I was unaware that I could vote in this election, actually I didn’t even know there was an election coming up until a few hours ago” confessed Greg Lewis (21) while collecting his Starbucks coffee at the University of Groningen.
In response to such comments, The Stand asked students to participate in an election survey to see if students were aware of the election and interested in voting. The majority of participants were unaware that they were eligible to vote but were very interested in voting once they had been informed.
Speaking on behalf of the Groningen Student Party (Student en Stad), Martin Duit (29) discussed the challenges of canvassing to students of Groningen and about the importance of voting “Students need to be represented in the council, and international students can make a big different if they vote” he said.
Anyone who is interested in voting can check to see if they are eligible on canivote.nl.