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Word of the day: stemmen (vote)

Are you going to vote on 19th March in the municipal elections? Now, that’s a real poser, isn’t it? Are you? Are you….? Probably not. For why should you? Read on.

stemmenThis week you must have received a voting pass from the city of The Hague. That is… if you are over eighteen years old and if you are a European citizen or if you have lived in the Netherlands for a continuous period of at least five years.

Yes, the municipal elections are at hand. Everywhere in and around The Hague you see colourful notice boards. They all invite you to vote. Which party you choose, is up to you.

So, I’ll ask you again: Are you going to vote? And what about all those Dutchies? Are they going to vote? Ay, there’s the rub.

In the previous municipal elections of 2010, only fifty-two percent of those qualified to vote made use of their right. For the upcoming elections they expect a mere forty percent.

Is that bad? Yes, that’s bad. Everyone living in a democratic country has the responsibility to vote. It’s a pity that so few Hagenaars use their voting right. People will complain about their city and the actions of the politicians but when they have the chance to influence them, they remain silent.

The slogan of this year is:

‘Nie klagûh. Stemmûh!’ 

This is Hague dialect for: ‘Niet klagen. Stemmen.’ (Don’t complain. Vote!)

Expats are modest people who prefer to remain invisible. They usually don’t complain. So this slogan will not stimulate them to vote.

A year ago I discussed the word STEMMEN, but then I focused on the meaning ‘voice’. In the name of the British Gramophone Company from the 1890s ‘His master’s voice’ means ‘de stem van zijn baas’. And you see a doggie listening to an old fashioned record player, probably playing a record with his master’s voice.

A STEM gives the owner of the voice power. This is evident from the other meaning of STEM: the vote. People used to vote by means of their voices. So they voted by means of their voices: ‘zij stemden met stemmen’. The Dutch vote silently these days, with a red pencil in a narrow booth.

The constitution prescribes that all Dutch individuals have STEMRECHT, the right to vote. Stemmen during the verkiezingen is taken for granted nowadays
and we forget that this right for all Dutchmen has not really been with us that long in our history and we also forget that is not so obvious in many other countries in the world.

Last Sunday, we organised a debate in the Central Library of The Hague. Aldermen and vice mayor Ingrid van Engelshoven answered many questions from the international audience. She also explained why it is so important to vote. Want to know why? Read the quote of the week.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you more about the Dutch political system and the various political parties that are involved.

Back to the question: ‘why should you vote?’ Easy: You live here, so vote, New Hagenaars, for a better future of The Hague and your children.

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