Herfst in Utrecht

Herfst in Utrecht
The leaves are changing and drifting, so herfst (autumn) must be upon us. I was particularly struck by the beautiful red leaves of this tree echoing the red of the Utrecht shield held by the lion atop the gate.

What’s with the words on a Wednesday? Mainly it’s an excuse to mention that I’ve been nominated by Expatsblog.com for their Expats in Netherlands blog award. Part of the judging criteria is based on the comments left about my blog on their page for my site, so if the spirit moves you to say a few kind words, I’d be grateful. For those who already have left kind words, thank you! I’ve been honestly touched by the nice things people have had to say. While you’re there, you can check out blogs from around the world. It’s fascinating to read the broad range of experiences people have and how they adjust to and view their new homes.

Woordenboek Woensdag: Stemmen

Pushing It
It’s election dag (verkiezingedag) today in the Netherlands, as citizens head to the polls (stemlokaal or stembureau) to cast their vote for one of the 19 parties on the ballot (stem, stembiljet). Noticing a bit of a running theme in the Dutch words? De stem is the noun for vote and stemmen is the verb to vote. Interestingly, stem is also the word for voice. Appropriate, don’t you think, since a vote is a citizen’s way to voice one’s opinion.

Politics (politiek) are a bit different from what I was used to in the US. As I mentioned, there are 19 parties on the ballot this year, compared to the small handful of parties (and really, only 2-3 viable ones) in the US. Here, you vote for a party, rather than an individual, although it’s generally known who the party will choose to serve as Prime Minister if they win the majority. But realistically, it’s not one party in power; it’s a coalition (coalitie) of parties, and that influences how people vote. Parties give hints as to which parties they would form a coalition with, and if you don’t like the possible pairings, that can influence your vote. As it is, we may know the voting outcomes by tomorrow, but finding out the ultimate coalitions could take weeks as they try to come to some sort of agreement between the parties. It’s not uncommon to have four parties making up the ruling coalition.

One last bit of Dutch voting trivia: Here, you can have a friend, family member, or neighbor vote for you if you’re not going to be able to physically go vote on your own. You’d better have a lot of faith in that person, though! How tempting it could be to change the person’s vote if you don’t agree! 😉 The stand-in voter does still have to be a Dutch citizen, however, so I wouldn’t be able to fill in for anyone.

The photo above is from the last election I voted in in the US before moving. No campaign (campagne) posters or materials are allowed past a certain point outside the polling place. Here, I’ve only really seen campaign posters in one or two designated spots. It’s certainly neater and cleaner! And here’s a photo from earlier this year at the municipal elections (gemeenteraadsverkiezingen). It’s a repeat photo, but it shows the use of stemstemdistrict — and has a bonus of a cute dog.

Do Your Duty

Brave Hond [Day 61/365]
Today is election day for the municipal voting. Expats, as well as Dutch citizens are hopefully heading to the polls today to make their voices heard. As an EU citizen, G could vote, so I went with him, even though I can’t vote for another three years. I hated not being able to vote! I looked longingly at the booths while G was in there, lucky bastard! At least I’ll be able to vote when they hold the municipal elections again in four years.
Polling Place
Our polling place is at one of the school buildings just a minute’s walk from home. It’s a university-age school, though, and the voting room was a relatively small room on the ground floor, not the echo-y high-school gymnasiums in which I’m used to voting. We went just before noon and there was no waiting, no long line. It will be interesting to see what the overall turnout is. At least it has been a beautiful day, with the sun shining and the temperature not too cold. No excuse there not to vote, at least!
Election Day
In response to Geert Wilders’ latest bit of idiocy, in which he wants to ban head scarves — we’re talking head scarves, not burquas — many people are planning on wearing head scarves into their polling place today, men, as well as women, as a form of protest against Wilders. If Wilders gets his way, no one will be able to wear a head scarf into a municipal building in Den Haag or Almere (the only two cities where his PVV party is on the ballot). I must admit, I thought about wearing one myself today, out of principle, even though I can’t vote and the PVV is not on our ballot here in Utrecht.

On a happier note, the first photo here is a picture of the dog who was waiting patiently while his owner went inside to vote. Such a good dog!

Rock the Vote (Maybe)

You know how I was talking last week about voting and the upcoming municipal elections here in the Netherlands? Well, here’s a website that makes it pretty easy to figure out if you can vote in those elections. The answer for me is a big ol’ no, but it turns out that G can vote. Of course, we also figured that out last week when he got his voter registration card thingy in the mail.

The municipal elections are every four years, and for me to vote, I’ll have had to be a resident here for five years, so that means I will be able to vote the next time around. Jahoe (yahoo)! If you’re curious about the requirements, here’s a bit more information (in English) about the municipal elections and requirements for voting in them and standing for election.

Party Posters

I figure this photo goes well with the post I made yesterday about how a few politicians were saying that it’s too cold to campaign. Look! There’s snow on the ground! Doesn’t it just look cold and miserable? 😉

This plywood billboard went up a week or so ago at the corner of Lucasbolwerk and Nobelstraat. It’s right there in front of the Stadsschouwburg (city theater) and one of the bus stops. A good a place as any for the display of political posters. It’s certainly neater than all the millions of individual campaign posters stuck all over the place as they are in the US.

As I try to get a better understanding of Dutch politics, I find myself referring back to this listing and general description of the various Dutch political parties currently operating. Amusingly, or perhaps intentionally, the more right-wing parties (CDA, VVD) are on the right hand side of the billboard, while the more left-wing parties (GroenLinks, D66, PvdA) are on the left-hand side.

If I understand correctly, non-Dutch nationals can vote in regional and municipal elections once they’ve lived here for five years. Have any of you who have been here long enough, but not become Dutch citizens, voted?

Rock the Vote

Go vote for Pamela and Jarno (couple #5) here, so they can have their dream wedding. Such a sweet story and once they mentioned hanging out in Union Square — I spent a lot of time in and around Union Square while living there — I was hooked. Well, I would have voted for them anyway, since Pam is a fellow blogging expat. 😉