War in Ukraine puts local election issues on back burner

Just 12 days ahead of the local elections on March 16, concern about events in Ukraine is putting local issues on the back burner as campaign leaders tone down their campaigns.

‘Half of all conversations we have with voters are about Ukraine,’ D66 national campaign leader Sjoerd Sjoerdsma told broadcaster NOS.

The war in Ukraine is occupying people’s minds at the moment, ChristenUnie campaign leaders Nico Drost said. ‘Issues such as housing and climate are hardly being googled at all,’ he told the broadcaster.

Most parties have adapted their campaigns to reflect the seriousness of the situation. VVD ministers involved in dealing with tasks related to the war will no longer appear in events. ‘It will all be toned down,’ VVD spokesman Bout van Bladel said.


While the media focus on the war in Ukraine is understandable, campaign teams fear the elections are in danger of going under-reported. ‘It is very difficult to get the national media to pay attention to local issues,’ Willem Duyvendak of GroenLinks said. His party has not had a single concrete request for a tv appearance about the elections, he said.

Sjoerdsma also regrets the lack of media attention because voters need to know who they are voting for. ‘There’s a big difference in waking up on March 17 to a town where D66 is in charge or one where the PVV is boss,’ he said.

The campaign teams hope that the war will motivate people to vote in greater numbers. The 2018 turnout was almost 55% and ChristenUnie spokesman Drost said he hoped this year will exceed that. ‘So as to show dictator Putin how important politics is,’ he said.

NOS is broadcasting the first national debate on the local elections at 6pm on Friday. Local party leaders and and parliamentary party leaders will discuss housing, climate and safety.

The war in Ukraine will also be up for discussion, particularly its consequences are for citizens and what local councils can do to help.

Meanwhile, DutchNews.nl has launched a special website local election section featuring news, key information and profiles of the political situation in the biggest Dutch cities.

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