Diversity not a priority for many local parties
Even though diversity is a national theme in the Netherlands - with the Dutch Cabinet containing an equal number of men and women for the first time - the municipal councils still mainly consist of older, white men, EenVandaag and the Dutch Association of Councilors found in a survey of nearly 1,000 current city councilors. Putting together a diverse list of candidates for the upcoming municipal elections was also not a priority for many local parties, EenVandaag reports.
45 percent of respondents said that their municipal council does not accurately reflect the inhabitants of their municipality. The councilors said they have too few colleagues with a disability, other ethnicities, the LGBTQI+ community, and young people. "My council, and the others I know of, mainly consist of gray men with the time and inclination to do something. And the few young people who are interested drop out because of the compensation," one councilor said.
And that seems unlikely to change. 42 percent of city councilors said that a diverse list of candidates was not a priority for their party in the upcoming elections. "If you have asked enough people and there is no enthusiasm, then you are happy with those who dare," one councilor said. 40 percent said their party struggled to find candidates.
Another reason for the lack of diversity is that 29 percent of municipal councilors don't find it necessary for the municipal council to properly reflect its residents. They feel that they can represent other groups of residents well themselves. "A white man can represent the interests of Muslims just as well or vice versa. There's nothing wrong with that," one councilor said.
Others disagree. "Many councilors I know think they can stand up for others. I think that's naive. You just miss other perspectives and broader themes in the council." a councilor said. The researchers also found that councilors from underrepresented groups - women, ethically diverse people, young people - often don't feel accepted or included. Half said they don't feel accepted by citizens, 57 percent by other municipal councilors, and 45 percent by the aldermen and mayor.
"If you call me 'madam,' I find it quite negative. Especially the tone that is used when you ask a question is not pleasant. Even the mayor had the inclination to do this," a councilor said. Another said that male councilors look down on their female colleagues. "I am a 'housewife who wants to play politician.' I am not a housewife, but the vice-chairman of the council."