Local elections 2018: Utrecht

With its young, affluent, multicultural population, it’s no surprise that the contest in Utrecht looks set to be a straight fight for supremacy between D66 and GroenLinks.

The city has become a testing ground for sustainable and progressive urban development, with mixed results. It won praise for its scheme to ban older diesel cars from the city centres and has flirted for several years with the idea of a guaranteed minimum income, but other innovations have proved less popular. Householders find the new bin collection system confusing and the decision to build a biomass plant to heat the city has not gone down well with GroenLinks’s more ‘deep green’ supporters.

Transport and accessibility are high on the agenda again this time around. The long-running construction work around the central railway station has been a nuisance to cyclists and partly explains why Utrecht ranked only 84th in a recent survey of bike-friendly towns and cities. The new tramline to the Uithof is running behind, at a cost of tens of millions of euros, and mechanical problems have blighted the new fleet of electric buses.

There is consensus about the need to encourage more citizens to leave the car at home and use public transport, but disagreement about how to achieve it. The two largest parties want to turn the inner ring road into a ‘city boulevard’, but the plan is strongly opposed by the centre-right factions. The shortage of affordable housing for lower and middle incomes is another issue on which all the parties agree on the problem, but differ widely on the solution.

D66 and GroenLinks are expected to continue in government, but the more interesting question is which minor parties will join the coalition.

The current administration is propped up by the VVD and the Socialist Party, with the Christian Democrats and Labour waiting in the wings. The 45 seats are shared between 10 parties and that number will swell if, as expected, Geert Wilders’s PVV and Denk win seats. The PVV’s top candidate, Henk van Deún, stirred up an early election controversy when he told a radio interviewer he wanted to see a city mosque burn down – figuratively speaking, he later claimed.

Current council coalition:  D66, GroenLinks, VVD, SP

Current council make-up: D66 (13), GroenLinks (9), VVD (5), PvdA (5), SP (4), CDA (3), Stadsbelang Utrecht (2), CU (2), Student & Starter (1), PvdD (1

Total number of voters: 269,156

Number of international voters: 18,764 or 7% – three seats on the city council

2018 local election information in English
Utrecht key issues: housing, integration and jobs
VVD manifesto summary (pdf)
D66 manifesto summary
Partij voor de Dieren, fundamental values
PvdA manifesto summary

March 15, City hall information session for internationals