With only forty days until the parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, the electoral campaigns are in full swing. A recurring concern is the voice of the young. Many young people don’t feel represented by the parliament and that’s what several candidates aim to change.
The average age of members of the House of Representatives is currently 48, with only one politician being below the age of 30. There is a huge gap, age-wise, between politicians and the younger electorate. However, the current candidate lists look promising: there are several ‘twentysomethings’ running to win a seat.
“Our age-group is often misunderstood, forgotten and blamed,” says 26-years-old Carline van Breugel. Carline is nr. 32 on the list of D66, a social-liberal center party. “The voice of the people between 18 and 30 years-old is simply not being heard.”
According to a voter survey conducted by the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs, this age-group also has the lowest voting rate: 76,1% of them voted during the last elections in 2017, as compared to an average of 81,6% among all voters. Taking into account that they only make up 17% of eligible voters, this means that in the end, this minority is barely being heard.
Which is problematic since younger generations face new crises: the lack of affordable houses, study debts and the climate crisis among others. “We cannot leave these issues to be solved by 60-year old white, grey men in pinstriped suits – who are comfortably looking forward to their retirement,” says Julian Bushoff, nr. 13 on the list of The Partij van de Arbeid (PvdA), a left socialist party. “They don’t see the urgency. We, as future generations, need a say in this.”
Carline shares Julian’s concerns. “Due to the lack of representation in the official institutions, youngsters go on the streets to voice their concerns.” Before her political career she was active in several youth organizations, such as the Dutch Student Student Union, through which she tried to stand up for the rights of students. “But, being heard on education is not enough,” she says. Politicians have the choice to respond to those political acts, but don’t have to. “The only way to make our voice heard is by having people our age in the government,” Carline adds.
But how does the electorate feel about this young generation of politicians? “I don’t really care about age,” says 23-years-old Ramon van der Velde. “I will vote for the person who represents my interests, who might be someone who is way older than me.”
For 23-years-old Lisa Edema, the presence of young politicians in government is more important. “The House of Representatives should resemble the demographic structure of society”, she says. Lisa explains that politicians her age are better able to understand and voice her concerns. “Within my preferred party, I will definitely look for a young candidate to cast my vote on.”
However, to get a seat, you need to earn enough votes and to maximize the amount of votes, you preferrably attract both young and old people. Are these new candidates also attractive for older people?
83-years-old Sophia van Rooijen sees possibilities, but not for now. She says that younger politicians can offer a new, fresh perspective on certain issues. “But, in these uncertain times I prefer an experienced government with politicians who have been in office for a while.”
Frans Mol questions whether young people are sufficiently represented in the government. “If a young candidate has good ideas, the wisdom and an eye for all people, then age is just a number,” says the 51-years-old. According to him, younger candidates deserve a chance. “If I would be 18 I would prefer to vote on an energetic, fresh guy or a nice young lady than a grey old-timer.”