Every four years, we decide which parties and persons are to sit on The Hague’s city council, as we will do on Wednesday, 14 March. Here is a look at a few noteworthy municipal elections from the past:
1919 First Women Candidates
At the municipal elections in May 1919, women could for the first time stand as candidates for the city council in The Hague. Two years earlier, the Constitution had been amended to give women the so-called “passive” suffrage. Strangely enough, this meant that although women could stand as candidates, women could not actually vote. The right to vote, the ‘active’ suffrage, was only granted to women after a special law had been passed. This law was not valid until28 September 1919 and therefore came a few months too late for women to vote in elections of that year.
In The Hague, eight women stood for election. Two were elected: Geerdina Wilhelmina Bleumink-Louman (born 1877), who was tenth on the list of the Social Democratic Workers Party (SDAP) and Johanna Wolda – Van der Puil, third on the list of the Communist Party Holland (CPH).
The first council meeting after the election took place on 2 September 1919. Item 1 on the agenda was: “Swearing-in and installation of the appointed councillors”. In his speech, the council chairman, Mayor Patijn, warmly welcomed the arrival of the female councillors. He also said that he hoped that the presence of women would be an incentive to keep a good tone.
A newspaper report on the meeting noted that Mrs Wolda had been unable to attend that session. Her inauguration took place two weeks later, in the council meeting of 16 September. According to the newspapers, after that she was regularly present, expressing among other things a strong stand for the homeless and good housing for low-income residents of The Hague.
Another change implemented in 1919 was proportional representation. Until then, a district system had applied in national and local elections, whereby the party that won in a district received the corresponding seat. With proportional representation, all votes in the entire municipality are counted together, as a result of which smaller parties also get a chance to win a seat.
In 1919, this was to the advantage of, for example, the CPH of councillor Wolda, who incidentally lost her seat in 1923. And in 1923, the Amusement Party entered the council with two seats, one of which was occupied by the then well-known cinema owner W. Mullens. This party acted primarily as an advocate for the entertainment industry.
1923 Annexation of Loosduinen
Four years later in 1923, the municipal elections in The Hague were held on 27 June. These were the first elections after the annexation of Loosduinen, which also took place in 1923.
In 1811, the Netherlands was part of the French Empire. In that year, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte decided by decree that Loosduinen would be an independent municipality. But by the late 19th century, The Hague was rapidly expanding and part of Loosduinen was annexed in 1902. In 1923, the entire municipality became part of The Hague. This meant that the residents of Loosduinen had to cast their vote for a much larger city council.
The day after the elections, the newspapers published the results and the distribution of the 45 seats. Twenty-four seats were occupied by left-wing parties, 21 by right-wing parties.
1946 First local elections after the Second World War
On 1 September 1941, the German occupying forces stripped the municipal councils of their powers and the councillors were sent home.
Local democracy was only restored on 26 July 1946 when the first post-war local elections took place. The turnout was almost 85% and thus much higher than the 40-50% we are used to today.
The PvdA won the most votes, and the communist party (CPN), did very well with 15% in third place. Many Dutch communists had been active in the resistance during the war, and Hagenaar voters perhaps remembered this when casting their ballots.
You might notice in the pie chart that in 1946 there were only six parties in the council, far fewer than the fifteen today. And only the PvdA still exists as a party. The KVP, ARP and CHU merged in 1980 to form the CDA. The PvdV merged into the VVD in 1948, and the CPN merged into the Groen Links in 1991.
The parties with links to their Wikipedia pages:
PvdA = Labour Party
KVP = Catholic People’s Party
ARP = Anti-Revolutionary Party
CHU = Christian Historical Union
PvdV = Freedom Party
VVD = People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy
CPN = Communist Party of the Netherlands
Since 1986, the Netherlands has allowed certain non-Dutch nationals to vote in municipal elections. They include people who live in the municipality and who come from another European Union country, and also non-Dutch nationals from outside the EU who have lived legally in the Netherlands for at least five years.
Part of this rule has now been implemented throughout the European Union: EU citizens have had the right to vote and stand for election in municipal elections throughout the Union since 1 July 1996 under the Maastricht Treaty.
So if you are eligible to vote, make use of your democratic right and make your choice known at the polling station on March 16th !