One of my least favorite subject matters. Though you’d would think otherwise considering that I’m from a country where democracy isn’t self-evident. Unfortunately, I’ve always regarded it to be a stuffy, far removed, filled with jargon topic that I didn’t understand. Nor felt the need to try and do so. That is until my stay in South Africa, where I realized how powerful my voice could be if only I used it to it’s full potential. How lucky I was to even have the room to express my opinion and furthermore act upon it. Most importantly, that due to my race, gender and socio-economic status I don’t have the privileged of excluding politics from my existence. This realization made me give it a real effort and in today’s blog I’m sharing three tips on how to get started with politics!
If you’re anything like me, the consequences of the decisions the government makes are encompassing. In my opinion, to encompassing for us not to bud in. Thus I feel it’s time we finally take our responsibility in educating ourselves on this matter and actively participating in elections through voting. Which is easier said than done. Politics isn’t and will never be just as sexy, alluring nor captivating as the latest Love & Hip Hop season finale for example. However, it’s here and probably will never go away. Thus it’ll always affect your life.
So we might as well try and find a way through the administration of our governments.
As citizens of the Netherlands, I’m going to use the upcoming elections on the 15th of march as guideline. However, the tools I’ll be giving you should be applicable in most (western) countries. The elections mentioned above will be for our house of representatives. Every citizen older than 18 years with a Dutch nationality will get to cast their vote on one of the candidates from the 28th participating parties. Yeah, you’ve read that right. 28th parties. Of course, not all parties will end up in the house of representatives. Just those that received enough votes to gain a number of seats in the house of representatives. For your information, there are a total of 150 seats. Now where does one start deciding which party to vote on?
1st stop: ‘Election Questionnaires’. There are a number of different surveys you can take to help you make a decision. Based on your answers on different statements, these surveys will give you a selection of parties you agree with the most. These statements range from topics about the retirement age, to military funding and the countries involvement in the European Union. They are a great tool to reduce your sample of choice in an efficient and informed way. Personally I recommend the jongerekieswijzer if this is your first time voting because it was created especially for the youth. As well as the partijwijzer and the Stemwijzer. The latter two because they give an explanation for each of the parties on each of the statements. Thus if you’re not clear on how you feel about a certain topic, you can use this information to help you make a choice.
Which leads us to my 2nd suggestion: reading the election-programs of the parties you matched with best based on the results from the election surveys. Before you do so, consider creating a list of all the topics you’re interested in, ranging from most important to least important. If you don’t know exactly which issues you care about, you’re answers on the elections surveys are great guidelines. In my case, I tended to take more time deciding when I cared more about a certain topic, than when I didn’t. Also, there were some statements I didn’t even had to think twice about because I felt so strongly about them. Once you have this priority list all done, use it to compare the different election-programs of your top parties. Side note, google was my best friend whilst working through those election-programs. Some of these words used are HARD ya’ll 😉
3rd and last suggestion: debates, debates, debates. Usually the days leading up to the elections are filled with debates. Taking in mind that during these events different candidates from different parties are giventhe opportunity to speak out on numerous political matters. They are the perfect opportunity to get an even better understanding of the parties your interested in. As well as selecting the candidate from those parties you’d eventually like to vote on. Or solidifying the choice you already thought of making. Therefore, I highly suggest watching/attending as many as you can. Most of them are televised and/or live-streamed, so you should be able to do so in your own time. Besides the televised debates I’ve kept up with and will keep up with until the elections, I plan on attending some live debates, such as The Funx Verkiezingsdebat and the Concrete Blossom debate.
To make these events a bit more fun, try and watch or visit them with friends. This way you’ll get to discuss the events, your possible choices and doubts with them. Which will not only further you understanding but it will also give you a different perspective. All leading to you taking an even better informed decision on whom to vote for. Disclaimer here though, discussions about politics tend to get emotions going. If you do decide to have one, make sure you are capable of doing so without taking things to personal. I mean, politics shouldn’t be the reason you loose a life long friendship lol.
Overall I hope I’ve motivated you to give politics a try this time round. Personally I feel that the current politicians aren’t really listening to what we, the youth, have to say. Nor what we need. The only way to change this is by showing them the power we actual have. In addition to what we are willing to do with it. Especially if you look at those who are voting for the first time. I mean, there are around 800 thousand of ya’ll which translates to about 10 seats in the house of representatives! I hope that by sharing these tips, I’ve not only lowered the threshold, not just for my fellow Dutchies. But also made participating in politics more accessible.