The Dutch are known for their candor. This openness even extends to the ostensibly secret act of voting in national elections. Tweeting selfies while voting became something of a phenomenon during municipal elections in March. When subsequently asked to clarify the law on taking photos in the voting booth, Dutch courts gave it their blessing (link in Dutch), as long as the photo is of your own ballot and not somebody else’s. Today, Dutch voters went to the polls for the European Parliament, and a flood of selfies burst forth. (For many more “stemfies”—a mashup of selfie and the Dutch stemmen (to vote)—follow the #stemfie hashtag.) The UK is also voting in European elections today, but you won’t see many tweets of Brits beaming with their ballots. The country’s election authority warned that voting-booth selfies could endanger the secrecy of the vote, and staff have put up warnings against taking photos inside polling stations. The penalty for revealing someone else’s ballot is a £5,000 ($8,430) fine or six months in prison.
Articles about voting issues in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Dutch citizens and politicians united on Wednesday in posting voting booth selfie photos, an increasingly popular phenomenon that could threaten the principle of the secret ballot but also encourages people to vote. Alexander Pechtold, who heads the centrist D66 party, was among the many Dutch voting in Wednesday’s local elections who tweeted a #stemfie, a combination of “stemmen”, the Dutch word for voting, and selfie. The photos, often of voters posing with the red pencil used to make their democratic choice or the candidate list, spread over Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with the #stemfie hashtag trending. Interior Minister Ronald Plasterk tweeted: “I’m not calling on people to take a #stemfie, but it is allowed.”
These elections were always going to be seen as the first real test of Dutch public opinion on the Netherlands’ future relationship with Europe. It has been a long and strong bond, cemented by the country’s strong reliance on the European export market. But the eurozone financial crisis has brought the reciprocity of this union under intense scrutiny. Many voters are frustrated by what they see as the flow of “blank cheques” being signed off by their leaders and sent to bailout-struggling economies abroad, while austerity is making life harder at home.
Mainstream pro-European parties look set to dominate the Dutch parliamentary election on Wednesday, dispelling concerns that radical eurosceptics might gain sway in a core eurozone country and push to quit the European Union or flout its budget rules. But the Netherlands is likely to remain an awkward, tough-talking member of the single currency area, strongly resisting transfers to eurozone debtors, regardless of whether prime minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals or the centre-left Labour party of Diederik Samsom win the most seats. Opinion polls on Tuesday showed the Liberals and Labour on 36 seats each or the Liberals fractionally in front, with the hard-left Socialists and the far-right anti-immigration Freedom party fading in third and fourth place respectively. That makes it more likely, though not certain, that Rutte, with the strongest international profile, will stay as prime minister.
Dutch voters will head to the polls on Wednesday, Sept. 12. Polls open at 0530 GMT and close at 1900 GMT. Vote counting starts immediately after the polls close and the first — unofficial — results will be published by public broadcaster NOS just after 1900 GMT. The process normally goes on until the early hours of the following morning. Final official results will be published Monday, Sept. 17 by the national election council. The outcome of the elections may influence Europe’s austerity-focused approach to dealing with its debt crisis. The German-led austerity drive has been strongly supported by the outgoing government of Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte. But a large number of Dutch voters are frustrated with belt-tightening and have become increasingly wary of bailing out southern European governments. “The Dutch elections might shift the balance of power in Europe towards less austerity and reduced support for further bailouts,” according to ING.
Few nations beat the Dutch for practicality. Befuddled voters, who have 20 or so parties to choose from in the general election on September 12th, can save hours of poring over manifestos by submitting to the StemWijzer. This government-backed website presents 30 pithy statements (“All [drug-selling] ‘coffee-shops’ in the Netherlands should be closed down”; “European supervision of banks should be implemented”), and matches voters to the party that best fits their views. Separately, the Central Planning Bureau also runs the main parties’ programmes through an economic model, to compare how each will affect things like jobs, output and, miraculously, queues on motorways. Despite these aids, the Dutch are disenchanted with politics. At J.H. Van Dijk’s cheese stall in Amsterdam’s main street market customers are fed up with all those politicians and their confusing parties. Further into town, at the Independent Outlet music store (where “corporate rock still sucks”), a young man behind the counter complains how “politicians always let you down”. A hairdresser in The Hague, who in her time has shorn plenty of MPs, cannot make up her mind. The StemWijzer is all very well, she says, but politicians “don’t do what the people vote for.”
Dutch concerns about the euro crisis are dominating the election campaign and have led to a sharp increase in socialist popularity in recent polls. Should the German Chancellor Angela Merkel be worried? The warm summer weather has returned to the small Dutch town of Boxmeer. An ice cream shop on Steen Street provides locals with place to cool off. The leading candidate for the Socialist Party (SP), Emile Roemer, vigorously scoops the ice cream and doles out a red clump of ice cream into a cone. In the background, the bells of the chapel drone, while dozens of photographers and cameramen snap photos and film the event. The Socialist Party leader laughs at the disfigured result of his efforts. But that’s no problem for Roemer. It’s the thought that counts. The powerful politician is offering a special sweet locals will probably have a hard time getting again: tomato ice-cream. The tomato is the symbol of the socialist political party. Back in the day, in the much wilder years, Dutch Socialists enjoyed pelting their political opponents with juicy, red tomatoes.
Rupture or continuity? The Dutch go to the polls on Sept. 12 for early elections marked by the crisis. Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte seems well ahead, but on the left there’s tough competition to come up with an alternative. For the Dutch press this close vote risks prolonging the political crisis. The general election campaign of 12 September is still coming up with surprises. According to a survey published on September 3, the VVD party of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte (Liberal) is still in the lead, expected to pick up 35 of the 150 seats in the National Assembly. Its main rival, though, seems to be not the rising star of the Socialist Party led by Emile Roemer (radical left), which had set the tone of the debate over the summer, but the Labour Party (PvdA) under Diederik Samsom.
With slogans like “Don’t let your vote go up in smoke!”, owners of the free-wheeling cafes where bags of hashish are sold alongside cups of coffee are mounting a get-out-the-stoner-vote campaign ahead of next week’s Dutch election. The campaigners are calling on their sometimes apathetic dope smoking clientele to get out and support political parties that oppose the recently introduced “weed pass” that is intended to rein in the cafes known as coffee shops and close them altogether to foreign tourists. At a coffee shop in The Hague, a member of staff selling weed wears a T-shirt emblazoned with a modified Uncle Sam style poster calling on smokers to “Vote against the weed pass on Sept. 12.” Under the new system, coffee shops become member-only clubs and only Dutch residents can apply for a pass to get in. The cafes are limited to a maximum of 2,000 members.
The left-wing Socialist party is expected to seize the largest gains in September’s Dutch elections, threatening to deprive German Chancellor Angela Merkel of one of her closest allies in response to the eurozone debt crisis. With Dutch voters set to go to the polls on 12 September 12, opinion polls indicated that the Socialist party, which has never formed part of a government, is running marginally ahead of caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberal party (VVD). According to a survey released on Wednesday (22 August) by opinion pollsters TNS-Nipo, both parties are projected to win 34 seats in the 150 member Parliament, with the centre-left Labour party (PvdA) expected to poll in third place with 21 seats. A poll of polls compiled this week by the University of Leiden pegs the Socialist and VVD parties at 35 and 33 seats respectively.