Okay, so: elections! This is a long text post, but with all that's going on in the world, I thought it would be good to write down how we do elections in the Netherlands.
Tomorrow I'm going to vote for a party that I want to be represented by in parliament. In the Netherlands we can choose between 24 (TWENTY FOUR!!) political parties, from conservatives (which we call liberals) to democrats (who call them selves liberals) to socialists (who are apparently called liberals in the USA) and many many in between (we have an animal party, a pirate party, a party for people who don't want to vote (sarcasm much), a senior citizen party, and so on and so on, 28 in total over all, but some parties are not on local lists)
There are 150 seats in parliament (Tweede Kamer, or the House of Representatives).
The party who gets the most votes will get the first chance to form a government and to do this they will work with as many parties as needed to get a majority in the House.
Currently we have a government of VVD (conservatives) plus PVDA (socialists), so all is not lost if the right wins ;-) Compromise is what our political system is all about.
The leader of the biggest party will become Prime Minister, the different minister posts will be divided over each party in the cabinet. (So for instance right now, we have a social minister for education and a conservative for housing, a social minister for finance, a conservative for defense, etc.)
According to the polls the conservative VVD will still be the biggest, but there is a extreme right wing politician who became very popular in the past year, who's right behind them. Fortunately the Green Left also has a lot of supporters and they too still have a good chance to gain a lot of seats.
Turn out for the most recent national elections was 75%, they're expecting a lot more people to vote this time, because it's such a close race. (there are 13 milion people with the right to vote)
In the Netherlands you are registered at birth and after you turn eighteen you will automatically get an invitation to vote for every election.
You also receive an example ballot with all the candidates and instructions, so you can study it at home. At the voting station there will be a huge poster with the ballot, so you have another chance to look at the names. We vote with a red pencil, filling the circle in front of the name of your candidate.( Here's my example ballot and invitation )
I don't think it's a secret I will vote for the Green Left (litteral translation of the party's name:), the only choice I still have left to make is which candidate I'll give my preference to. I would usually vote for the first woman on the list (there are three parties with a woman in the top spot, for most of the major parties the number 2 is a woman, except for the Christian Right (SGP) who don't allow women on their list, well they do now, since they had to go to court over that and lost, but they don't have any eligible women on their list anyway).
BUT! Choosing number 2 will not result in more women in parliament, because candidates will get a seat based on their place on the list and the amount of votes the party gets. So number two on the list will definitely get in. This year there was a campaign explaining that in order to get more women in parliament, we should vote for a woman who is near the cut-off point of seats for their party and might not get in, unless she'd get preference votes. So I'm gonna try and find out who that would be for my party, based on the dreaded polls...
Why do I vote for a woman? Simple math, the group of candidates has 34% women and 66% men; I want our parliament to be representative of our population, so to restore balance, my preference vote goes to a woman.
Polling stations are open from 07:30 until 21:00, I'll go and vote after work, on my way home. For my own sanity I will try not to spend the evening watching the news;) Mom's coming over for dinner and I hope we will distract each other with chatting and DVDs...
It will be a stressful evening though.
(FYI: our conservatives are really not that conservative; issues like women's rights, gay marriage and healthcare for all are not up for debate to the point of fearing for our life. But the rise of the right is a cause for worry, especially for non white people. Let's hope enough lefties turn up to vote and even out the hate with sympathy at least...)