The Netherlands has 345 municipalities where elections will be held simultaneously

Municipal elections in the Netherlands are coming up

Municipal elections in the Netherlands are coming up

In that context, the municipalities will get an official handbook of tips and tricks on how to tackle disinformation

The Netherlands are gearing towards municipal elections next week. The elections for municipal councils will be held on 16 March, however, polling stations will also be open on the 14 and 15 March in every municipality to prevent people from clustering at the ballot boxes.

Furthermore, citizens can authorise someone else to vote for them in what is called ‘empowering’ (machtigen). Citizens can do this if they fear possible COVID-19 infectionor because they are not in their municipality on the day of the election.

The only conditions are that the empowered person is eligible to vote, casts his proxy vote the same time he casts his own vote and lives in the same municipality. EU citizens are also allowed to vote in the election if they have lived in the Netherlands for at least five years.

The heart of local government

To a large extent, the municipal council is at the heart of local government. They have a role in the process of the selection (or dismissal) of the mayor, who is not elected but is rather appointed by Royal Decree upon the recommendation of the Minister of Interior. In particular, they advise on the job requirements to be met by the future candidate. They also appoint the municipal executive, called the Council of the Mayor and Aldermen.

The municipal councils are in charge of the decision-making process and passing by-laws. The mayor and aldermen, on the other hand, need to implement these decisions.

Municipal elections are held every four years, but a Mayor’s term lasts for 6 years and can be repeated if his performance is assessed as successful.

Dealing with increasing disinformation in the digital age

At the start of February, the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations issued a handbook for local bodies on how to better deal with disinformation in the run-up to the election. The guide gives administration officials legal and practical tips on what to do to reduce the impact on communication.

According to a government statement, disinformation campaigns have an increasing influence on public discourse in the Netherlands, suppressing some opinions, amplifying others and blowing up societal differences.

This, they say, undermines the democratic process and disrupts free and fair elections. Municipalities have increasingly had to deal with the issue, as the scale of these campaigns can have both a local and a national impact. Sometimes, it could even lead to voter suppression, because citizens can receive incorrect news on where to vote or how to vote.



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