Municipal elections are held every four years in the Netherlands and the next ones are coming up on 16 March 2022. Unlike in parliamentary elections, foreign nationals who live in the Netherlands are entitled to vote in local elections. To be eligible to vote in the city council elections, you must be over 18 years of age, registered with the municipality where you live and be either an EU citizen or a non-EU citizen who has lived in the Netherlands uninterrupted for at least five years. Non-EU internationals in Amsterdam are permitted to vote for their district committee (Stadsdeelcommissie) if they have been registered in the city for at least two years.
Local government in the Netherlands
The city council, the College of Mayors and Alderpersons, and the district committees together form the municipal government. Mayors in the Netherlands are not elected but appointed by the Crown. The number of representatives in city councils and district committees is determined by population size. The City of Amsterdam currently has 45 councillors, representing 12 different political parties, and there are seven district committees.
The city council determines general municipal policy and monitors if the College of Mayor and Alderpersons is properly implementing that policy. The district committees are the link between local neighbourhoods and the city. The members are residents of the district in question and deal with topics such as greenery and parks, household refuse collection, street design and local law enforcement issues. They are responsible for implementing city policies in a way that best suits their own district. You can check which district committee represents your area here.
How can I vote?
It is not necessary to register to vote in local elections. The municipality automatically sends a voting pass to everyone who is eligible. You must bring this pass with you to the polling station, and you will also need to show an ID document (passport, driver’s license or ID card issued by an EU country) that has not been expired for more than 5 years. If you’ve lost or damaged your voting pass, you can apply for a new one in person, with your ID, at your District Committee office. It’s also possible to nominate someone else to vote on your behalf using the form that will be supplied with your voting pass.
Where and when?
The elections take place on Wednesday, 16 March 2022. As with last year’s general elections, some polling stations will open two days earlier. This is to spread the numbers of voters and ensure that the elderly and others who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 can avoid potentially crowded spaces. Polling stations are generally open from 7:30 in the morning until 21:00 in the evening, with some exceptions for locations such as shopping centres and train stations.
Polling stations are set up across the city, usually in public spaces such as schools, community centres, libraries etc. If you’re not sure where to vote, you’ll find all City of Amsterdam polling stations here. You can filter the locations by accessibility, postcode etc.
Deciding who to vote for
Twelve national political parties are currently represented in Amsterdam’s city council. Most district committee representatives are also members of a political party, but this is not mandatory – people can also stand for election as independents. The party lists and candidates’ names are officially confirmed in the first week of February. Political parties usually post their election policies on their websites in the run-up to the elections, along with information about the candidates. If you’re interested in knowing more about the current city councillors, the official City website has a page (in Dutch) where councillors can post what they said about a topic and how they voted. Just click on a councillor’s photo to find out more about their opinions.
The city districts all have information online about their plans and activities. They also have Facebook accounts, which can be useful for staying up to date with developments in your neighbourhood. Another option is to use the Voting Compass site (in Dutch) where you can answer questions about different issues and discover which party most closely matches your standpoint.