Dutch aldermen still largely white, middle aged men: report

Council Chamber in Hilversum
Council Chamber in Hilversum. Photo: Effeietsanders / Wikimedia Commons

Dutch political parties just can't manage to get more diversity among their aldermen. In 2014 around 3 percent of the 1,500 aldermen in the Netherlands had a migration background. After the municipal elections in March this year, that percentage seemed to have dropped somewhat, Trouw reports based on its own research.

Over two thirds of the 335 municipalities that took part in the elections in March have now concluded their coalition negotiations and appointed their aldermen. According to Trouw, the percentage of aldermen with a migration background is now around 2 percent.

The Dutch government defines 'migration background' as someone who has one or two non-Dutch parents. According to figures from Statistics Netherlands, around 23 percent of all Dutch have a migration background.

One reason for the lack of diversity is the way in which aldermen are appointed, Julien van Ostaaijen, expert on public administration at the University of Tilburg, said to the newspaper. "Membership of the party and the board is very important. Just like long-term political experience within the party." According to Van Ostaaijen, only 3 percent of Dutch belong to a political party, and older white men are overrepresented in that group. 

Another issue is that parties already have trouble finding candidates, Jeroen van Gool of the Aldermen Association said to Trouw. "What doesn't help is the magnifying glass under which local politicians find themselves."

The newspaper spoke to Yasemin Cegerek, last week appointed PvdA alderman in Heerde. She is not only a woman, but is also the daughter of two Turks that came to the Netherlands in the 70s. As far as she knows, she is the only female alderman of Turkish descent. "I certainly do not feel like a figurehead or anything like that. I think it should be about my qualities. I do notice, however, that I have to do more to prove myself than the men in the gray suits. Painful? Maybe I got used to it."

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