- Alodia Heijmans
Why you should care about Maastricht’s elections
Please, take into account that this is an informative article seeking to give you an overview of the elections as well as showing you the importance to vote for the municipal elections. Therefore, even though some of the parties’ ideas are depicted here, they are not representative of the program of those and also do not represent the entirety of parties running for the elections. I hereby invite you to inform yourself about their program, always available in English and online.
Voting speaks to all of us. European, regional or national elections, some of you may have already participated, others have not yet exercised this civil right. Although the municipal elections are all around us, they are often left out by a lack of interest. “Useless on a small scale”, “no time for that”, or “I don't feel concerned” are often heard phrases when approaching the municipal elections. Consequently, it makes it hard to get voters. A struggle that intensifies in Maastricht, where more than 10% of its inhabitants are students, where people feel even less concerned. Indeed, the vast majority of this 10% do either their bachelor or master studies in Maastricht or both. Less than 1 out of 10 students will stay to work and live in the Netherlands. In any case, it is very rare to see a student at UM living in the same city where he/she studied. And it is by joining these statistics that the reasoning of students is created: why should I vote in the municipal elections if I leave the city in a few years? The thing is that this reasoning does not seem absurd, and pretty fair when you think about it. However, voting is much more than that and your vote is much more important than what you think. Hopefully, reading this article will help you understand why, on the 16th of March 2022, you should go and vote in Gemeente Maastricht. In order to provide you with the best arguments, I have addressed myself to all the parties running for the elections this year, they are 23. Thanks to the contributions of the Parties of Volt, PvdA, D66, Groenlinks, RE:SET & VVD Maastricht, I built up connections that might convince you of your importance and your role to make it even stronger.
Students have a determinant role in bringing fresh air to the city; voting is, therefore, their chance to be heard and to fully act in their living place. While they are residents of the city, they shape its present but also its future. Maastricht University is rather new and goes every year beyond the expectation of expected enrolments. Young people come from everywhere in the world and bring with them their culture, ideologies, and diversity. They arrive in the middle of “locals” of Maastricht who also have their own identity, even their own dialect. The representative of Volt Maastricht underlines that seeing so many students from all over the world gives a new breath to the city and the idea of making them collaborate with the local population of Maastricht can create even more refreshing ideas for the well-being of the city and its citizens. In the end, most of the parties agree upon the fact that whether you are a student or born and raised in Maastricht, the result is the same, you are a citizen of the city, and you have the same value. As Groenlinks emphasizes, the city is as much yours as everyone else, not more, not less.
As the PvdA reported, the decisions made by the elected party will affect the daily lives of you and your fellow students. Therefore it is only right when students use their right to vote. Moreover, the party of VVD Maasricht emphasizes our chance to live in a democratic country. Therefore, not taking advantage of one of our most powerful rights would be a waste, especially in our closest democracy, the local elections.
There is a reason why the parties are so willing to have students vote: they are prepared to welcome you in the local political life of Maastricht, they want you to feel like a true inhabitant of Maastricht. For that to become concrete, parties’ members have things planned for you. Following their program, their focus would be on transport, housing, or even on simply listening to the students in order to answer their needs. A meeting with Volt Maastricht, the pan-European party led by international students, taught me about the progressive ideas they have for the city, especially towards its young inhabitants. As an example, the party has the ambition to solve transport connection issues existing between Maastricht and its neighboring countries: Germany (especially Aachen) and Belgium (Bruxelles), making connections faster and simpler. Also, the main concern for the majority of parties is the housing crisis. This issue is on students, but not only. It concerns every citizen of Maastricht and is on the agenda for most of the parties which want to tackle this issue as fast as possible, with different strategies.
For example, D66 wants to build more accommodations for both students as well as usual inhabitants of Maastricht, working hand in hand with Maastricht University. Whereas Volt Maastricht focuses on creating a more sustainable housing project by building more, but also more affordable. For its part, the VVD is willing to keep a parking place for students in Randwick, making it easier for them to travel between their homeplace and student city. Supported by several parties, it is also the idea of having everything translated into English in the city, from signs to letters received in your mailbox. Parties know our needs and need us to be able to solve them.
An important and often raised point that came back from the parties interviewed is the importance of bringing the local population of Maastricht closer to its students. More dialogue needs to be established in order to increase the well-being of both sides: the language barrier must fall to leave room for better harmony. Parties are conscious of the complexity of the issue: people of Maastricht want to speak the Maastricht dialect, Dutch people from another city prefer the Dutch language and students are more familiar with speaking English. This divergence is both a problem to be solved and a great asset to the city by bringing even more diversity. The trick is to find a balance and the parties are on the spot!
To make Maastricht more vibrant, use your rights and don’t throw away your vote!