In the middle of the Dutch Week of Democracy democracy was at an all time low. In Utrecht, the city where I live, the fourth city of the Netherlands, a referendum was held to choose a new mayor. Only 9.3% of those entitled to vote participated in the election, and 16% of those who voted intentionally devalued their voting form. As the outcome of a referendum is only binding with a 30% participation, it was a clear disaster. How come? Are people not interested in democracy?
They surely are, and it's not a bad idea to elect a mayor out of or by the population. But the city council decided to do a preselection first and came up with two mainstream, not very outspoken candidates from the same political party (Social Democrats) who both live in another city. The population decided to boycot the referendum as being a form of pseudo-democracy. They reason: "Either the city council appoints a mayor (which is indirect democracy, but still defendable), or the population chooses, but then the race should be really open to anyone who wants to run for mayor." I fully support this view. For the first time in 22 years I did not vote while I had the right to vote, because it was such a farce. Now, on the day after, politicians in The Hague are stating that the Utrecht referendum shows that the population isn't interested in choosing a mayor. They didn't get the message. Now who is devaluing democracy here?
On the picture in the middle our current mayor, sided by the two candidates. The guy on the right, Aleid Wolfsen, got most votes and will probably still be appointed by the city council as our new mayor. I don't think he's a bad candidate in terms of capabilities, but the way things have been handled sucks. Yes, it might be time to rethink democracy.