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Dutch general elections 2017

Tim Wienk

A politically themed article on my website, I did not see that coming. In the light of the general elections coming up in a few days, I decided to work out my own answers to the Dutch "StemWijzer" (Vote Match) statements.

StemWijzer results

First I'll share the result of my final StemWijzer answers:

  1. Pirate Party NL (80%)
  2. SP (67%)
  3. Partij voor de Dieren, De Burger Beweging (63%)

I decided to share my results and answers to the StemWijzer statements on my website for a number of reasons:

  • For the answers to a lot of questions I tended towards "neither agree or disagree" because I missed details about a lot of subjects, but to get a relevant result I did want to actually form an opinion. By writing this text, I had an extra reason to think about some subjects or to dive deeper into them.
  • I was actually surprised about the fact that the PPNL came out as top result, mostly because the statements don't directly have to do with the reasons I was already interested in this party.
  • The PPNL gets relatively little attention in the Netherlands, and I felt that my StemWijzer result was positive for the party. If even only one person reads this text and seriously considers the PPNL because of it, I think that's a good thing.

Pirate Party NL

Like I mentioned, I was already interested in the PPNL, in particular because their key points revolve around digitisation and privacy, two subjects I come in contact with on a daily basis during my work and which I personally (partially because of that) feel are very important.

Additionally I think there is (still) way too little knowledge and attention for all matters concerning IT and digitisation. Even if only one seat in the parliament goes to a party that really commits to these subjects, they will at least be brought to attentention more, forcing other political parties to take clear positions and to treat them more substantively.

I was surprised that the PPNL was the at the top of my StemWijzer results. After doing some more research and reading the party's own responses to the statements, I have to conclude that my generally positive opinion about the PPNL was actually too negative. I did find them interesting already, but they have developed a better thought out and more complete election programme than I realised, and they had well founded answers to all of the statements. Not all answers match mine, but a very large amount of them do.

Not very surprisingly but unfortunately I do think that a lot of people don't take the Pirate Party serious because of the name, hopefully this will improve with time as we get used to the name. I did of course know that the party is serious and that it does have a broad perspective, but it turns out to be better than I thought. The PPNL is certainly a serious political party, there is international collaboration with other Pirate Parties and it's grown way past the "one issue" stadium.

I think that the PPNL is a good option for a lot of left progressive oriented voters who attach some extra value to the "let's do everything on the internet" effects.

Statements and answers

This will be the longest part of this article, below I will go through all thirty statements from the StemWijzer and I'll share my answers and reasoning behind the answers.

1. Binding referendum

There should be a binding referendum, through which the people can block legislation adopted by the parliament.

Answer: Disagree.

Of course I am all for participation of "the people" in decision making, but the problem with referenda is that people, who generally are not well versed in the issues at hand, are asked to give their opinion about matters of which only (or sometimes not even) the superficial parts are visible.

In my opinion is this the precisely the reason why we choose representatives in our democracy. These representatives are working with these kinds of issues on a daily basis and therefore do have the ability to form a well considered opinion, and therefore to make a well considered decision.

So how should it work?

The chosen representatives have at least the following to tasks with respect to their voters:

  1. Gather full and nuanced information and make sure to stay informed about the (political) issues and solutions at hand, so they are able to represent their voters fairly.

  2. Inform their voters fairly and clearly about these issues and stay informed about the opinions of the voters they represent.

When this is done well enough, a nationwide referendum is not necessary and politicians won't be burdened by thoughtless or misguided decisions made by "the people".

When a representative or political party does not execute these tasks (by only promoting populist and/or superficial explanations, or by not verifying with their supports at all), they are not being very representative at all, and they don't deserve a parliament seat in my opinion.

2. Compulsary community service

There should be compulsary community service for young people. They can then decide to serve in the military, in law enforcement or in health care.

Answer: Disagree.

In my opinion these kinds of obligations are inefficient and unnecessary. Forcing (young) people to do community service while they don't choose to do so, won't motivate them and won't lead to quality service.

As part of the education system people will end up at organisations or companies that do fit their ideas and interests through internships and graduation assignments.

3. Anonymous job applications

To prevent discrimination based on name, anonymous job applications for the government or public institutions should be the rule.

Answer: Disagree.

Trying to combat discrimination in this way is only symptom relief, it's similar to thoughtlessly taking pain killers against a head ache: it's better to figure out why you keep having a head ache. The actual problem is only hidden this way.

Because of this, I feel that anonymous job applications does not have to become the (or a) rule, but it also shouldn't be a problem if an organisation does want to use this. All organisations (government or other) should be able to decide for themselves whether anonymous applications are have added vlue for them.

If a government organisation is guilty of discrimination based on name (or anything, really), there is a different problem to solve than an application problem.

4. Group defamation

Defamation of groups based on race, religion or sexuality should no longer be punishable by law.

Answer: Disagree.

Openly and intended defamation of groups contributes to a society in which prejudices, discrimination and maybe even hate based on belonging to a group is normal.

At the moment it is very popular to blame groups of people for all sorts of things, be it homosexuals or foreigners. It seems very illogical to me to ease regulations in this area at this time.

5. Cultivation and sale of cannabis

The cultivation and sale of cannabis should be legalised.

Answer: Agree.

The current policy of tolerance around the cultivation of cannabis is illogical and unhealthy in my opinion.

By legalising it instead, it's possible to set up regulations and quality standards and it would even be possible to add taxes, like on alcohol. In this way it will be easier to inspect and control and it will benefit the quality of the products (and therefore the public health).

6. Early release of prisoners

The early conditional release of prisoners should stop. They should serve their sentences completely.

Answer: Disagree.

Firstly I think it's important to emphasize that the early release is a conditional release, and it's only possible for sentences of more than a year.

Furthermore the case is that judges calculate the early release in their decisions, changing this will actually make current sentences longer than they were meant to be.

I think/hope that, by offering criminals a prospect of early release, there is an (extra) reason for them to try and improve and be able to function normally in society. However, I do think it's a good idea to check whether there should be more freedom restricting conditions applied to early releases more often.

7. Corporate tax

The taxes on profits of enterprises (corporate tax) should be lowered.

Answer: Disagree.

When thinking about this logically, you'll quickly come to the conclusion that lowering these taxes will greatly benefit multinationsals and have a way smaller impact on smaller enterprises. This approach does not seem the right one to me.

If tax relief is necessary for enterprises, there are other taxes to look at (like income taxes), which will benefit employees as well, or other options (like tax deductions), which will benefit small enterprises more.

8. Taxes highest income groups

The highest income groups should pay more taxes.

Answer: Disagree.

This statement is overly simplified, it seems designed in a way so everyone with a low or medium income can just vote "yes".

In my opinion the highest income groups don't have to pay more, but the low and medium income groups should have to pay less.

Perhaps (but probably not) it's as easy as decreasing the tax percentages for the low and middle income groups, and increasing them for the highest group, making it so the highest income group does still pay approximately the same amount.

Additionally I heard multiple policital parties talk about fighting tax evasion, a higher increase in tax does not exist for these people.

9. Temporary employment contracts

The period in which one can sign multiple temporary employment contracts in succecssion should be longer than two years.

Answer: Disagree.

If a company has employed someone for two years, it's very hard to call this employee's position temporary, and after two years the company will probably have established a certain level of trust in this employee.

It only seems fair that this situation will lead to some assurances in employee's contract as well.

10. Retirement age 65

The retiremnet age should be set back to 65 years old.

Answer: Agree.

I agree in principle, although I would rather see the retirement regulations changed more than this (or even superseded by the implementation of an universal basic income).

It seems logical to me to link the retirement age to the number of years worked. In practice one starts working at an earlier age in the more physically demanding professions, while the less physically demanding professions require a longer period of education, making it so the retirement age for physically demanding professions would be lower in practice.

Additionally I feel that someone should be able to decide themselves if they want to stop working at the age of 65 (or after the established amount of years worked). For the "extra" years someone works (and doesn't receive state pension), the later state pension can be adjusted.

11. Insurance independent professionals

There should be compulsary insurance against occupational disability and disease for all independent professionals.

Answer: Disagree.

If one chooses to work as an independent professional or freelancer, one chooses for certain liberties and responsibilities, among which the liberty and responsibility of around these insurances. Assessment of risks is a large part of running a business, and these risks are a part of that. It doesn't seem desireable that the government would impose these kinds of obligations in these cases.

As far I as understood, this is mostly a problem for pseudo-independant professionals. Pseudo-independance is a problem that should be addressed in itself, not by just forcing extra insurances.

12. Student loan system

The loan system for students should be abolished. The basic student grant should return.

Answer: Agree.

Education is very important for our future and should be accessible for everyone with a threshold that is as low as possible. The current loan system has the opposite effect, people feel more stress and insecurity about the financial consequences of persuing a degree.

I feel that reintroducing the basic student grant is a logical step after this failed "experiment".

Additionally I do think that the student travel product should be changed to only be valid for a specific route, rather than nation wide, with possibly lifting the week-or-weekend limit.

Study credit instead of first four years

I am rather impressed with the Flemish study credit system, perhaps this system can be used as inspiration for a way to determine the height of the grant and to make it fit part time studies better.

In this system a student starts with 140 points which are spent and (if things go well) earned back during the educational career, based on these points the student is subsidised.

In the Dutch system, the height of the grant could be determined based on a similar credit, where each enrolled ECTS credit counts as a point, and at 60 points in an academic year the maximum grant is paid out. Points will be earned back when a subject is completed successfully in an academic year. As long as someone has 60 or more points left over, one can claim the full grant, provided that they enroll for 60 ECTS credits.

In the Flemish system, the first 60 points are earnt back double, and when finishing a study 140 points are deducted of the remaining credit. With a perfect score, a student would then be left with 60 points for a potential second study.

13. Money for culture

More money should be invested in art and culture.

Answer: Neither agree or disagree.

I haven't been able to form a well enough opinion on this matter, mostly because I don't have a good overview of the current distribution of the money spent on art and culture.

The image that most of the political parties paint is that the distribution should be improved, but that more money may not be necessary.

14. Islamic immigrants

The Netherlands should close its borders for islamic immigrants.

Answer: Disagree.

Rejecting people based on religion is against very fundamental values of the Netherlands (and of myself): the freedom of religion and the right to be treated equally.

15. Children's pardon

Children of asylum seekers who grew up in the Netherlands should be allowed to remain in the Netherlands (children's pardon).

Answer: Agree.

The precise details of this subject are really not easy, but in the general sense I strongly feel that children should be protected.

If a child was raised in the Netherlands, then the Netherlands is their home base. By forcing families to leave the Netherlands, while their children speak Dutch and are part of the Dutch society, they have a large part of their lives taken away from them.

Of course there have to be conditions to comply to, especially for the parents, but these have to be fair and achievable. The way in which the parents act during their stay in the Netherlands can be used as basis for this, but then his has to be clear to them from the start.

16. Shelter illegals

The government should prohibit municipalities to offer shelter to illegal foreigners.

Answer: Disagree.

When people reside illegally in the Netherlands (reason left aside), they have to be guided correctly to leave the Netherlands. I don't think that not offering (or being allowed to offer) these people shelter is the right way to arrange this.

Even if you don't think of the inhuman aspect of prohibiting to offer shelter, it would even make the eviction process harder if these people have to live on the streets, and it would most probably cause inconvenience for the people that do reside here legally.

17. Mortgage interest

The arrangements for the tax deduction of mortgage interest should be eroded further.

Answer: Disagree.

As far as I can assess, the mortgage interest tax deduction and other mortgage regulations are currently well organised.

However, I am of the opinion that it would be good to set a maximum mortgage value or purchase amount on the possibility to receive mortgage interest tax reduction, so the benefits end up with the right people.

18. Rental tax

Housing corporations should build more low-cost rental houses. Therefore, the taxes they have to pay for rental housing (rental tax) should be abolished.

Answer: Neither agree or disagree.

I really don't know a lot about the details around rental tax, mostly because of that reason I answered "neither agree or disagree".

I do agree that there should be more low-cost rental houses, but I am not convinced that the rental tax should be abolished. It seems more logical to me to implement tax deductions specifically aimed at stimulating the preferred policy (stimulating the right types and prices of housing, and stimulating sustainability and environmental friendliness).

19. Schiphol

Airport Schiphol should be allowed to expand.

Answer: Agree.

Every company, including Schiphol, should be able to expand and grow, as long as they abide by the rules. For an airport the rules regarding effects on the environment are very important, but as long as Schiphol sticks to them, I don't think the government should stop expansion.

If the current rules are not good enough, that is a separate problem, and that should be the topic of discussion instead.

20. Kilometer tax

The government should not tax the possession of a car, but the number of kilometers traveled.

Answer: Disagree.

I personally think that it's important to tax fuel consumption, not kilometers (or miles), and this is already done right now.

Pollution is a result of the type and amount of fuel used, not directly the distance traveled. Constantly accelerating and breaking in a city will be very polluting, but won't be a lot of distance. By taxing fuel consumption, the use of fuel-efficient and less polluting cars will be stimulated.

Additionally, implementing a system like this that is somewhat fraud-proof will be very complex and expensive, it would require the government to collect a lot of information that is currently private, and I doubt whether it would reduce the car usage of the "large-scale users". Investing in public transportation seems more worthwile.

21. New roads

There should be more money invested in the construction of new roads.

Answer: Disagree.

Similar to the previous subject, I think it is more worthwile to invest in public transportation instead of this as well.

In the current situation people are more sure of their arrival time by travelling by car through traffic jams, than by taking a train with its random delays. By solving the delays and related problems, people would be able to trust public transport more.

On top of that, in most cases traveling by car is cheaper the moment you add another person to your car.

Public transport should be made more reliable and appealing.

22. Coal plants

All coal plants may continue to remain active for the time being.

Answer: Disagree.

I understand that it's not possible to close all coal plants at once, but it certainly can't be objective to keep them all open.

Bit by bit, but as fast as possible, the coal plants should be closed and replaced by sustainable alternatives.

23. VAT rate meat

Meat should have the higher VAT rate of 21 percent applied.

Answer: Disagree.

Eating meat by itself is not unhealthy and it is possible to produce meat in a sustainable manner. Fact is, however, that it would be a healthy idea for a lot of people to eat less meat than they currently do.

People should be made aware of this of this, and should learn to recognise what their body needs, since that's different for everyone.

Eating no meat at all is not necessary if you ask me, that is something people should decide for themselves. For this reason I don't think raising the VAT rate to 21% is a good idea, meat is "just" a type of food and raising the VAT rate would make it less accessible.

What I would like to see is encouragement of local sustainable production of food. Instead of specifically taxing meat, I would prefer to see tax reductions for locally and well produced food in general.

24. Completed life

Elderly people who feel that their life is completed should be able to get help to end their lives.

Answer: Agree.

If someone decides to not want to live anymore, that is their choice and that choice should be respected, and if you ask me that does not only go for elderly people.

When it can be determined with sufficient certainty that the choice has been made on their own considerations and is not based on pressure or solvable problems, I think a person should be able to get help to end their live.

I do understand that not everyone thinks the same way about this. In case of conscientious objections, a doctor should be able to transfer this to a colleague.

25. Abolishment of deductible

The health care deductible should be abolished, even if this means that insurance contributions will rise.

Answer: Agree.

The goal of a deductible is, in principe, to give someone an extra reason to be more careful with that which is insured. This does not apply to health care insurance, since health care is required to be actually treat your body and mind "carefully" and should therefore not be hindered.

The deductible has a number of undesired side effects. The most important ones are, in my opinion:

  1. people with a low income are less likely to seek treatment out of fear for the costs,
  2. the chronically ill already know at the start of every year that they will have to add the deductible to their health care costs, whicn in practice simple makes the deductible a higher insurance contribution for them.

26. National health care fund

There should be national health care fund, so the current system of private health care insurances can be removed.

Answer: Agree.

The current system of private health care insurances does not work well. Health care insurances are very expensive, on paper there is competition but in practice there is not.

By covering the base health care insurance through a national health care fund, everyone will have access to health care for a fair price (again), and the discussion about freedom of health care / hospital choice can be closed as well.

27. Defence expenditure

The defence expenses should increase significantly the next few years towards 2 percent of the national income (the NATO standard).

Answer: Neither agree or disagree.

In principle we have an agreement with the other NAVO member states to spend 2% of our Gross Domestic Product on defence, in practice, however, only very few states actually actually make it to that percentage, most of the European states are between 1% and 1.5%.

On top of that, because of the current stance of Russia and North Korea, the necessity to be able to take anti-terrorist measures and because of the reports of outdated and poorly maintained military equipment, it appears to be justifiable to have to spend more money on defence.

However, with the information I have, I cannot estimate how much really is necessary (and whether 2% of the GDP is realistic) for us and our NATO allies to be able to keep things safe and peaceful, because that must remain the goal: to keep peace.

28. European army

There should be a European army.

Answer: Disagree.

Even though this sounds like a plan that could save time and money, and with which Europe could act more serious when necessary, I do not think this would work out like that in practice. In particular because of the current insecurities regarding the EU, I think launching a project like this now would only cause more differences of opinion and more anti-Europe sentiments among the people.

I do think it's a very good idea to look into closer cooperation with other European countries in this area, and perhaps we can try and experience a joint army on a smaller scale (like the BeNeLux) first.

29. Development aid

The Netherlands should spend more money on the development of poor countries.

Answer: Neither agree or disagree.

With my limited knowledge about the current effects and distribution of the money spent on development aid, I can't determine whether there is more or less money required.

As long as development aid is aimed at the long term, by increasing the knowledge and improving the market position of a developing country, so a country in time can stand on its own and can continue the efforts themselves, I think the money is properly spent.

30. EU membership

The Netherlands should leave the European Union (EU).

Answer: Disagree.

I think that a united Europe is very important for a small country like the Netherlands. The internal market and the free movement of people and goods is very important to us, and losing that would be be a large blow.

Additionally, the negotioating position of a united Europe with respect to other large parties, such as the United States, is a lot better when it concerns trade agreements and large scale approach to tackle environmental issues.

This does not mean that I think the EU currently works well.

For example, I am of the opinion that the current wide spread anti-refugees sentiment is largely due to the bad preparation and resulting ad hoc made decisions within the EU. Because this issue is about people from outside of the EU borders coming in, and because we need a solution in which all EU countries can and want to help, I think it is the EU's task to prepare its member countries well enough.

Changes need to be made, firstly in the area of transparency, but the EU also really needs to put more effort in preparation and anticipation of future events, so decisions can be made collectively beforehand.