Democracy Drinks February 2023: the importance of local democracy

By Thomas Ansell

On February 13, more than 50 Democracy Defenders gathered at The Hague Humanity Hub for an edition of #DemocracyDrinks. The event series, which is held in collaboration with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee and the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy, is intended to bring together Democracy supporters across Europe.

This edition focussed on the importance of Local Democracy and featured Job van der Poel of The Hague Academy of Local Governance, a particularly relevant topic with the upcoming Provinciale Statenverkiezingen and Waterschapsverkiezingen in across the Netherlands in March 2023.

Job began his presentation by asking the audience ‘Who here voted in the Gemeente elections in 2022?’; with about 75% of the room putting up their hands. He went on to explain that on a ‘value’ basis, voting in local governance actually gives you the most ‘power per vote’, as an average of 4,000 votes in a municipal election is enough to allocate a seat. Additionally, (and especially in the Netherlands), your local municipal council is likely to make decisions that affect you most immediately.

This theme continued as Job moved on to talk about the Water Board Elections: many people do not think that a local water board election is the best way to express their political preference, but the water boards are responsible for deciding the level of groundwater; whether its level should be held at a position optimal for, say, business or biodiversity.

The presentation finished with a quote epitomising local democracy: “Democracy is a slow process of stumbling to the right decision instead of going straight forward to the wrong one.”

The next edition of Democracy Drinks The Hague will take place in March. Stay tuned to the newsletter of The Hague Humanity Hub for more information!