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Our social integration partner C.L.O. (Latin American community) in Eindhoven organized an event to sociologically explain the Dutch democratic society to residents from another country. The event was motivated by the forthcoming municipality elections in which many international local residents are invited to participate. But what to vote for if you don’t know the system or local culture? What do the political parties stand for? How does the city council work, how does it influence our lives….and how can we citizens and residents influence the city maker’s choices or even work together with them?
This first C.L.O. event was in Dutch and started with inspiring presentations of sociologists Milagros Maldonado and Leny Raedts. On March 6th the STIR Foundation repeats the event in English in the Expat HUB of Eindhoven (17:30 till 20:00).
Who can vote during municipality elections in the Netherlands?
- You are 18 years or older
- You are either Dutch, a national from any of the communities of the European Union, or have a legal residence status of 5 years or more.
- You live in a Dutch municipality
What is the Dutch democracy based on?
The democratic way of dealing with societal choices goes already way back to Greek ecclesias or forums where elite people used to debate common issues and choices. Since the 17th century’s industrialization era, new elements were added to the discussion, such as the economic interests, the rich and the poor, those with a job and without, the massive movement of people to cities, the dramatic urbanization, etc.
Various wars were fought over the stress caused by such diversity of societal aspects of hierarchies, inequality and dominance of the elite (such as Kingdoms, later the industrialists, banks with money driven authorities in modern times). The French revolution under Napoleon left us in 1810 with the very first need to adopt a national constitution. The political democratic context was fixed around three sociological principles:
- Equality – from a political point of view this principle was very much adopted by socialist, left wing parties. Equality has many interpretations, such as equal rights to vote for instance. At the time only man with a fixed income could vote. Women were only included 100 years later! Equality is also an income and security’s issue. After worldwar II it became clear that inequality and lack of social security would be the reason for people to join radical movements. To avoid this the Netherlands developed itself into the so called “State of Care”.
- Freedom – again this important aspect of a democracy has a lot of interpretations. Freedom of speech, of choice, of religious beliefs, etc are key elements of our society. From a political point of view it became the home of Neo-Liberal parties.
- Brotherhood – yet again a sociological element of interest with a variety of interpretations. Brotherhood is typically an arena of belief and unification through external power (eg. religion, money, buildings, ground, etc). Often these brotherhoods were based on religious beliefs. Later it evolved into the representation of entrepreneurial, money and power focussed organizations. These were often referred to as right wing parties. Another movement can be defined as “sisterhood”, the feminist movement of female rights, gender equivalence to the old male dominance and reaction to female suppression.
Within this spectrum political parties appeared that defended certain insights, rights and interests. There is always an overlap as none of the parties is based on purely one element. Nowadays new elements are yet again added to the political spectrum. They go beyond the original basics and develop around environmental issues, elderly people, nationalistic identity issues, etc. With such expressions a large diversity of political parties appear that all demand the right to defend themselves and determine policy issues and regional development. Modern political expressions are difficult to place in one of the sociological areas as they defend a new dimension of issues.
Many consider this fragmentation of the political field as chaotic and unmanageable. In essence this is true and a huge challenge as well as opportunity. To satisfy so many political streams a concensus for progress is hard to achieve. And even if achieved it is so much deprived of ambition that it hardly addresses the complexity of regional development today. Small political parties hardly have resources to go deeply into the complex issues and have the tendency to leave the importance to the civil servants and the councillors put in place. The council looses track and unjust islands of power, mismanagement or abuse appear. There is a sense of need to evolve into a new practical way to focus while still maintaining the basic democratic rights and diversity of streams of attention.
The latest movement that originated in Eindhoven since 2009 (City of Tomorrow) is referred to as Sustainocracy. It refers to the basic democratic elements that together lack a common base of responsibility. We talk about human democratic rights that may have a large diversity of interpretations and expressions but never talk about evolutionary key responsibilities that affect the natural human wellness spectrum. Since the appearance of the “State of Care” attitude, society has grown very expessive, it took over responsibilities from the citizen’s and developed large political and economic hierarchies around care. The money and care dependence resulted into a speculative money driven political arena in which the core human values became secondary to financial interests.
Sustainocracy adds modern insights of core human values again to the spectrum of choices and shared responsibilities. A kind of sandwich in which we do not deal only with political interests but with priorities surrounded by rights and core values.
Within Sustainocracy a new, cocreative reality appears in which all fundamental fragmented responsibilities (government, business innovation, human behavior and education) of a society jointo take responsibility together. The steering is not done anymore by the particular self centered interests of institutions, lobbies or hierarchies of power. The steering is taken over by core values based cooperative prioritization. In case of Eindhoven the “healthy city movement” through air quality (AiREAS) is a clear example of this new layer of societal participative care through sharing innovative progress.
United Nations sustainable development goals
The complexity is even larger. The United Nations defined sustainable development goals which are a global encounter with priorities that need to be addressed. From a sustainocratic perspective these goals are a noble reflection about significant symptoms and problems that have risen from the way old democratic and non-democratic nations work. The current political economic hierarchy creates huges differences for people and hence is responsible itself for levels of poverty and inequality (two important issues to attend). To address these issues we need to break the current power silos and replace them with new layers of shared responsibility.
Elections of March 21st
Everyone who has the right to vote can express their own preferences in the voting locations near your home. You go there with your identity card and the printed invitation to vote that you received from your municipality. The volunteers at the desk check your identity and provide you with the list of voting options. You go to one of the voting cabins to make your choice (make sure you use the red pencil and color within the circle of the option you choose, else you vote will be cancelled) and place the list in the bin that collects all votes.
All the votes are counted. The city council of Eindhoven has 45 members. The total amount of legally admitted votes are divided by the 45 council seats. This gives us a first divider, meaning the amount of votes needed for one seat. Then the amount of votes per political party are counted and related to the amount of seats they achieved according to the first divider. A few additional mechanisms are needed to fairly define the remaining seats simply because no political party will have always precisely the amount of votes for whole seats.
Once the process of dividing the seats has finalized the political parties need to create a coalition, unless on party gained enough votes to fill half of all seats plus 1. In our current fragmented arena of political diversity such single party dominance is highly unlikely. It is more likely that a coalition of various parties develop the mayority needed to manage the region for the next 4 years. Coalition discussions typically tend to unite likethinking parties of the traditional democratic basis (left, right, liberal) but now also can unite based on Sustainocratic values and shared (including United Nations) responsibilities. In the previous coalition negotations of 2014 the element of “regional health” was adopted for the first time and helped establish the current reigning coalition. This became a composition of left wing socialist (PvdA and SP), liberal (D66) and environmental expressions (Groenlinks), together good for 24 seats of the 45.
So what to vote?
16 political parties present themselves this time. Some of them have a large history in the region and come from way back the times of industrialized tensions among the human rights. These parties have a powerful presence on national level that affects the local chapter of the parties. Others fill the national and local spectrum of modern focal points such as the environment and elderly, starting at national level and now moving towards the local arena. In the Netherlands the political arena has three layers: the state, province and municipality. They all have their own voting moment. After a long period of centralization of power into the Hague there is again a decentralization movement placing important responsibilities at the level of the local municipality. The importance hence of the local elections are very high as they affect our perspectives of quality of life for the next four years. This gives rise to many local political expressions that defend the local priorities, often without a link with The Hague. Increasingly there is a fourth layer to take into account and that is the European Union.
Some local political parties, irrespective of their sociological direction (lef, right, liberal) start recognizing the Sustainocratic layer of direction. They have visited or participated with AiREAS, FRE2SH, COS3i or the School of Talents and got acquaianted with this way of working that was adopted by many people already but without yet a broad political following. This adds an unprecedented dimension to coalition options that can now gain compositions that previously were unthinkable of. The main difference with previous government structures is that the level of Sustainocracy requires not only a political concensus but also the multiple helix working format involving the local pillars of society (citizens, government, science and innovative entrepreneurship) together in pre-established priorities such as health, food securities, social integration, circular processes and economies, integral thinking and proactive attitude towards change. This demands a new attitude to public spending, legal formats of control and regulation, etc. This is a process that is not easily accomplished and needs also your democratic support, not just at the time of voting for your representative or personal political stream, but also in taking shared responsibility during the years to come, in between the voting times. Below you find a list of the 16 political parties that present themselves and a personal impression of their political coloring and commitment to for instance Sustainocracy. All this can change of course so it is a mere indicative overview, not a recommendation of any kind…