The Netherlands goes to the polls in a month’s time to elect 570 new members for the 12 provincial councils and campaigning is now beginning in earnest.
The provinces receive money from central government to manage nature areas, oversee provincial transport issues and promote the arts and culture, but their most significant task is electing the 75 members of the senate.
The current coalition government has a slim majority in in the current upper house of parliament but this is certain to disappear when the new senate is chosen by provincial councillors on May 27.
This means the government will have to rely on the help of opposition parties to get controversial legislation approved.
The first televised debate between six campaign leaders took place on Sunday. The opposition parties in that debate made it clear they will not support legislation they do not approve of and will try to force the government to make compromises.
‘They think they will be able to break the might of the cabinet next month, because they are making big gains in the polls,’ NOS reporter Ron Fresen said.
In particular, climate change is emerging as a key issue, even though this is not a job for the provincial governments, with both GroenLinks leader Paul Rosenmoller and Jesse Klaver of GroenLinks calling for a carbon tax for heavy industry.
Europe too came on board during the debate. Henk Otten, leading the campaign for the anti-immigration Forum for Democracy, was forced to say the party is ‘not after a Nexit for the sake of it’, contradicting earlier statements by party leader Thierry Baudet.
Elections for the European parliament take place on May 23.
Who can vote
Only Dutch nationals can vote in the provincial elections on March 20, but the waterboard elections, which take place on the same day, are open to everyone living officially in the Netherlands.
The 21 water boards (waterschappen) regulate how public money is spent on ensuring a clean water supply and making sure the country does not flood.
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