Anger and awareness boost turnout
28 February 2006 – Residents of the
De Baarsjes district are concerned about their financial situation,
about hostility towards ethnic groups and about the lack of trainee
posts. “Too often, I hear district politicians say that they
have no authority to deal with issues. That is too easy”,
says GroenLinks party leader Mustapha Laboui.
GroenLinks is a member of the opposition in De Baarsjes. If the
party should join the executive after the elections, Laboui is a
candidate to become Alderman.
Friday, he organised an election meeting with speakers including
the well-known national politician Mohamed Rabbae. Attendance was
high. “During such a meeting, people talk about their concerns
in quite general terms. They are hesitant to discuss personal problems
in public. But afterwards, they approach you and you get to hear
what is really going on”.
“Many people have difficulty making ends meet, they run up
debts. They are very concerned about the new health insurance system.
Growing hostility between different groups in society is also a
cause for concern. And the future of the children”.
“Students have a very difficult time finding a trainee post.
One young person told me that he had visited 69 institutions trying
to find a trainee post. Is that not peculiar, a school does offer
an education but does not see to it that students can do a traineeship”.
The district has no authority over schools. “That is correct,
but that is no reason to do nothing. Too often, I hear district
politicians say that they have no powers to deal with issues. That
is too easy. You can talk with schools, with companies, connect
people, get them to cooperate”.
Regarding their financial situation as well, the district can support
its residents. “The district should see to it that adequate
support is available for people with debts. It must be very protective
of the affordable houses that we have. As far as I am concerned,
we will also start a project to subsidise home insulation. This
will lower the housing costs, and it is good for the environment
While Laboui stresses that the district should not evade its responsibility,
he also criticises the national government. The conservative VVD
party is not at all happy with GroenLinks discussing national issues
during the local campaign.
Laboui: “That may be their view, but at the local level we
are confronted with the consequences of national policies. For example,
the education budget was recently cut by over half a million euro.
The whole campaign is very much about how we can alleviate the negative
consequences of national policies at the local level”.
GroenLinks campaigned in De Baarsjes against polluting cars, parodying
the blowverbod (ban on smoking marijuana) introduced by the district.
“A fun campaign, short and powerful, and it gained us quite
a lot of publicity”.
However, the party does not want to be known as an anti-car party.
“We are not against cars, but we are against air pollution.
People want to use their cars. On the other hand, you have to consider
health effects, safety issues, and lack of space. It is important
to balance these interests”.
The De Baarsjes district supports organisations that organise activities
to increase turnout at the elections. Especially immigrants’
organisations are very active on this terrain. Further, residents
can try out the voting machine at various locations.
“The voting machine may be the largest barrier to vote. It
may seem simple, but especially for people who are illiterate it
is not easy to use. One municipality displays photos of the candidates
on the voting machine, this is not a bad idea at all”, says
Even so, turnout may be higher than four years ago. “Immigrants
are angry about the way they are being discussed. At the same time,
they become more and more aware of the influence that you can exert
by voting. It is always hard to predict, but I would not be surprised
if turnout would be pretty high in De Baarsjes on 7 March”.