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What is happening during the Dutch Municipality elections?

Yesterday. March 21, all Dutch citizens were allowed to vote during the municipality elections. These elections determine who will represent the people in a municipal coucil for the next 4 years.

The Netherlands has 380 municipalities within Europe. There's also 3 Dutch municipalities within the Caribbean. The municipality is the third largest governing body following the Rijksoverheid (national government) and the Dutch Provinces. Every municipality needs to follow the national laws. These laws cover topics like government support and welfare, and the environment. But each municipality has their own governing power as well. this is called 'staatsrechtelijke autonomie' (constitutional autonomy). Within this margin each municipality can make decisions on how to arrange their own 'house hold'. For example, there are no national rules on how many houses for young professionals need to be build or which local projects get subsidised. Each municipality can make decisions about these topics on their own within certain limits and if they abide by the national laws. There are also topics that are of no concern of the municipality. For example, it's not allowed for each municipality to make up their own rules on how to treat foreigners or how our military defences are utilised.

The municipal council is the most important part of the municipal government. The most important task of the council is to make sure that the decisions that the council of mayors and aldermen make, represent the people. They also shape the boundaries within which these two parties need to make decisions and they advice the mayor and the aldermen. It is very important that the municipal council represent the people of the municipality they where chosen in.

The amount of council members within a municipal council is determined by the amount of citizens the municipality has. The smaller municipalities with less than 3000 inhabitants only have 9 council members. The largest municipalities with over 200.000 inhabitants will have 45 council members. Every citizens over the age of 18 can put themselves up for election for the municipal council. Most of the time, being a municipal council member is not a full time job. It's mostly done in people's spare time. You could compare the type of work to being a member of general management within an organisation, institution or association.

All citizens 18 years or older are allowed to vote during the municipality elections. Citizens who do not have the Dutch Nationality but have been living in the Netherlands for 5 years and possess a residence permit can also vote for these elections. Citizens who have settled in the Netherlands from another country from the European Union get these right from the moment they register in a Dutch municipality.

During the elections the local departments of the largest Dutch political parties will battle for the most votes. Usually there's also a lot of parties that only operate locally that participate. These parties mostly focus only local matters and issues.

The first thing the new municipal council will do after the elections is appoint the aldermen. Together with the mayor, the aldermen manage the municipality's daily business and they make sure that the national laws are abided.

This year each citizen had to cast two votes: one for the municipality elections and one for the Intelligence and Security Services Act referendum 2017. This Act is also called the 'Sleepwet'. it puts an emphasis on how important these elections are even though they are 'only' local.

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