Earlier this week were the elections for local Councils here in The Netherlands. A few weeks before the day we get a long list of all the candidates. These are split by party, and ordered by each party. So we had a list of 210 candidates across 10 parties for 31 seats, all of which are elected every 4 years. The list includes each candidate’s gender and what town they live in. I believe there is a requirement that if someone was elected who wasn’t resident in the municipality then they would need to move into it in order to take up their position on the Council.
Having grown up with a set of political parties you have some idea of what they stand for and how they’ve acted in the past. But coming here to a completely new set of parties and a completely different voting system has taken some time to get used to. We’re still trying to match up the parties here with the UK parties to keep a handle on where they sit in the political spectrum. And whereas in the UK I tended to vote for historical reasons it has been quite illuminating to actually sit down and see what the parties are actually pledging to do.
In order to vote in the general elections (or a referendum) here you need to have a Dutch passport, so none of us are able to do that. But as EU citizens resident here we can vote in the local elections and, I believe, in the EU elections. (As long as we don’t also vote by post in the UK as well!). Voting cards are posted out a couple of weeks before the election, which you need to take with you to vote along with a proof of ID. And you can go to any of the polling stations within the municipality, so you don’t need to go to the closest one to where you live.
When you vote you choose a candidate from a party. The number of votes for candidates from each party are added up and that gives each party the proportion of the Council seats they have won. Those seats are then allocated to people in the order the candidates are listed for each party. Unless there is a candidate from lower down the list who has received proportionally votes for them as an individual than those higher up, in which case they would get a seat in place of a person higher on the list. This means that the vote is always split between the parties and so it is very unlikely that one party gets a majority. So negotiations and compromise are a political way of life here.