Pirates in the Netherlands prepare for local elections

Pirates in the Netherlands prepare for local elections

The first half of this year will be a busy one for the Pirate Party of the Netherlands(PPNL). Not only will they compete in the European elections in May. On the 19 March 2014 PPNL will also participate in local elections for the first time in its history. They will compete in only four of the country’s municipalities, namely: Amsterdam, Binnenmaas, Groningen and Zwolle. Interesting side note: On three Caribbean islands that are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius, people will be able to elect their island council. Sadly PPNL will not compete on one of these remote parts of the country so Johnny Depp’s title “Pirate of the Caribbean” remains unchallenged for now.

In the next sections we will introduce some of the top candidates:

Amsterdam – second candidate: MATTHIJS PONTIER

Pirate Times: Who are you?
Matthijs: I’m Matthijs Pontier, I have a background as a scientist and I support the Pirate Party of Amsterdam.

Pirate Times: In Amsterdam the Pirates not only competes for the city council, but also for administrative committees in the city districts North, South and West. What are these administrative committees and what are their jurisdictions?
Matthijs: That’s still very unclear. It’s a new system. Before there were city district councils with more seats and more jurisdictions. The administrative changes we are undergoing are a move towards a more central controlled city. The administrative committees will get an important role as “eyes and ears of the neighbourhood” and report to the city council. Sadly their own responsibilities will probably be limited. We want to take initiatives here so we can also be the “mouth of the neighbourhood”. There will also be a seven figure budget for the administrative committees to spend on their own initiatives, so it’s not like it’s all about nothing.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Ancilla van de Leest (3th place), Bob Sikkema (1th place), Matthijs Pontier (2nd place)

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Ancilla van de Leest (3th place), Bob Sikkema (1th place), Matthijs Pontier (2nd place)

Pirate Times: What is the most important campaign issue for the Pirate Party in Amsterdam?
Matthijs: A free city, where you can do as you please, as long you are not a nuisance to others without being spied upon, with a transparent city council and more participation for the people of Amsterdam. To be more concrete: away with patronizing night life rules, limit camera surveillance and preventive body searches, experiment with citizens forums and e-democracy, a transparent city administration.

Pirate Times: What results do you expect?
Matthijs: Do yo want an honest answer or a promo-talk? Honest: with two or three seats in the city council we would be super happy. A seat in one of the administrative committees would be a real surprise, because there are only 13 to 15 seats per city district.

Binnenmaas – top candidate: WIM VAN DEN DOOL

Pirate Times: Who are you?
Wim: My name is Wim van Den Dool, married, father of 2 boys of 13 and 16. An ancestor of mine was Belgian with Lutheran ideas. During the inquisition he fled to the Netherlands from “Kasteel de Dool” in Helchteren. Today a great beer is brewed at this location.

Pirate Times: Why did you decide to participate in the local elections?
Wim: There are plans to merge 5 municipalities together because this benefits the province and some parties. There are negotiations between the councilors of the involved municipalities. Only the parties that are part of the ruling coalition know what it being discussed. Citizens and the opposition remain in the dark, so no transparent government.

Pirate Times: Can you tell us a little more about your municipality?
Wim: Our community is made up out of six villages about 20 kilometers to the south west of Rotterdam, seven kilometers west of Dordrecht. It is part of the Hoeksche Waard in the province of South Holland. It’s a rural area. A lot of the inhabitants moved here from the city and still commute. About 31,000 people live here. The municipality is made up of Puttershoek(where I live), Gravendeel, Maasdam, Heinenoord, Westmaas and Mijnheerenland. The last four towns are locked between the river Binnenmaas and a lake that was formed by the St.Elisabeth’s flood in 1421. Putterhoek is connected to the Binnenmaas by a waterway.

Pirate Times: What is the most important campaign issue for the Pirate Party in Binnenmaas?
Wim: We are opposing the merger of the different communities because we want to keep the administration as close as possible to the citizens.

Pirate Times: What will be your focus when you get elected?
Wim: Openness towards the citizens, keep contact with the citizens and protect the citizens privacy.

Pirate Times: How many seats do you believe you can get in this election?
Wim: 1 seat.

Pirate Times: What kind of campaign actions are you undertaking?
Wim: Visiting each town, sending press releases when possible, approaching civil society organizations, mailing local websites, visiting information events by the municipality about smart energy meters and wind energy. The mayor even expressed his appreciation about this.

Groningen – top candidate: ALEX STRAVER

Alex Straver

Alex Straver

Pirate Times: Who are you? Why are you a Pirate and why did you decide to participate in the local elections?
Alex: My name is Alex Straver, 35 years old and father of 3. In 2012 I joined the Pirate Party because I was worried about our civil rights. I want my children to be able to grown up in a free and safe world. Early 2013 I became active within the party and I put myself forward as top candidate for these municipal elections.

Pirate Times: Can you tell us a little more about your city?
Alex: Groningen is the capital city of the province with the same name in the north of the Netherlands. The community has about 200,000 residents of which 50,000 are students. It’s a vibrant city that doesn’t have a law dictating closing hours.

Pirate Times: What’s the most important campaign issue for the Pirate Party in Grongingen?
Alex: We are mostly active on the points of transparency and increased citizen participation. We believe all decisions of the city council should be put online using an open standard. Beside that it’s important that citizens get involved in projects in their neighborhood from the beginning. Local residents know best what they need in their neighborhood.

Pirate Times: What kind of campaign actions did you undertake?
Alex: During the campaign we had multiple actions. Debates and filling out voter advice sites were the most important, besides that we went out flyering a lot and are active on Facebook and Twitter.

Pirate Times: Do you think you can win any seats after this campaign? How many?
Alex: I’m convinced that we should be able to get a seat.

Zwolle – top candidate: RONNIE POPKEMA

Ronnie Popkema

Ronnie Popkema, picture by Gerlinde Schrijver

Pirate Times: Who are you? Why are you a Pirate and why did you decide to run for the local elections?
Ronnie: I’m Ronnie Popkema, 41 years old, top candidate for the Pirate Party in Zwolle, in the middle of the Netherlands. I was a musician for 20 years, mostly in the alternative scene. When around the turn of the century the Internet spread as a wildfire in parallel a discussion broke lose about what could be shared freely and what not. As musician I enjoyed participating in the discussions around Napster (known to you all I hope) and what this meant or should mean for the music industry. A that time I couldn’t yet suspect these where in essence the first discussions about the free sharing of all kinds of information, respect for privacy and civil rights violations by intelligence agencies. Back then there was no difference between the life online and IRL (or AFK), which seems nearly impossible today. It was a not conscious choice to participate in the local elections. I noticed that in recent years I got more and more angry about paths chosen by national politicians. I often disagreed on a principal level, posted it on several social media, but seldom got any response. But if you post a picture of your pet you do get 153 likes all of a sudden. This should be different I thought. In 2012 I already voted for PPNL in the national elections. After that I wanted to sign up as a volunteer for the party in Zwolle. I received word that there really wasn’t a local branch in Zwolle but that I could contact two local Pirates. At our first meeting in mid November we immediately had the idea we maybe could participate in the local elections 4 months later. It took until December until the three of us finally decided to make the big leap. At first I was the contact person for the party towards the municipality. Then I became the temporary top candidate until we could find a better suited candidate. But that never happened so I became the real top candidate for the coming elections. So this was really a bit against my will, I would have preferred to operate in the background, but that has now definitely come to an end.

Pirate Times: Can you tell us a bit more about your community? Where is it located? What’s it’s character?
Ronnie: The municipality of Zwolle is actually the same as the city of Zwolle. It’s a provincial capital of medium size, almost 125,000 inhabitants, located in the west of the eastern province of Overrijsel. So right in the middle of the Netherlands. Because of this all train connections to the North of the country pass through our city. Zwolle is a relatively quiet town, with a college not a university. Lots of students attend, but not a lot live here. Attempts are made to convince more students to move. A few other things of national interest are: Soccer team PEC Zwolle is a top 10 team in the national division, Jonnie Boer’s three start restaurant named “Librije“, the just renovated museum “de Fundatie“, a famous bookstore named “Wanders” housed in a church, the liberation festival Overrijsel organized every 5th of May is the largest of it’s kind in the Netherlands with up to 140,000 participants.

Pirate Times: What will you focus on when elected?
Ronnie: Getting the public administration to work more transparent. At the moment it’s nearly impossible for regular people, with jobs, a family and so on, to stay informed about the what’s going on in politics here. All information is available but only in text. The city’s website is a static thing that appears to be made 10 years ago and hasn’t received any attention since then. Before you can find what you are looking for you have to download and browse through a book worth of PDF’s. All benefits of modern technology to represent maters in a more easy to understand way seem to have been ignored by the site. An update is an urgent necessity. And while we are at it, we want to immediately connect an app to it. More and more people prefer a mobile device over their PC or laptop. We need to react to this trend so it can benefit us. Why wouldn’t you be able to get news from the municipality based on your location? Or that you can report matters to your municipality when you see things you don’t really agree with. By doing so you will create more involvement with politics and more understanding. Maybe more people will come to the voting booth again next time. The turnout for this years is projected to be as low as 40%. I find this exceptionally dramatic. It undermines the public support for the local government. This while there will be quite some decentralization in the next years. So the responsibilities of the municipalities will only increase.

Pirate Times: What kind of activities do you undertake during this campaign?
Ronnie: We organized an event to celebrate the start of our campaign, on that occasion we presented our promotional material. We have posters, flyers, stickers, buttons, coasters, attributes that always come in handy somewhere. There are an enormous amount of debates organized here: over 20 in 4 weeks. We try to participate in those as much as possible. Of course we flyer a lot, and try to get into local media.

Pirate Times: How much percent or seats do you expect to win in this election?
Ronnie: There are no reliable local polls, so it’s really impossible for me to make any informed prognoses about this. Based on things I pick up here and there, I believe that when we are really lucky, we could get two seats. Out of 39 that would be around 5%. But one seat would already make us very happy, it’s the first time Pirates in the Netherlands run in local elections after all.


Featured images CC BY-SA PPNL