In another three weeks the Dutch people will once again have an election. This time it is about three different entities: the composition of the provincial governments, and, indirectly, also the Senate (which is chosen by the newly elected provincial leaders) ,and also the ‘water boards’. Unfortunately, I am not in the country on March 18 and will have to ask my wife to vote on my behalf.
Yes, I always take part in elections, but this time I find it more complicated than usually. I try to stay reasonably informed about what happens in our province Flevoland. But what party should get my vote? I consulted the website ‘Kieswijzer’ that is supposed to show which party is closest to my standpoints. In the case of our province there are some key issues: a major development of our regional airport, a number of nature projects and various infrastructural projects. It appears that I am closest to the CDA (Christian Democratic party). However, I would hesitate to vote for them, as I do not like the CDA position on massive farms for pigs and other animals. It is tempting to also think of national politics and consider the national consequences, if the composition of the Senate would alter significantly. (Whether of not we actually need the Senate and whether the provinces still play an important role is another matter.)
But what about the election of the members of the water boards? There is no doubt that these water boards are extremely important. I have no issue with the fact that I must pay a few hundred euros annually in a special tax to pay for their activities. Certainly, people like me who live in one of the polders of Flevoland, realize that it takes a lot of effort to ensure that our feet remain dry by keeping the water of the IJsselmeer on the other side of our dykes. We also know of the many smaller differences in the water level inside the polders that need constant attention. Through numerous fusions the number of water boards has been strongly reduced. A century ago there were about 3000 water boards in the Netherlands. Now there are 24. On March 18 the people who are in charge of these 24 water boards must be elected.
That a water board must have people who are in charge, with representatives from various shareholders, is beyond question and in 2015 it is also rather logical to ensure that there is broad participation in the decision who will be entrusted with this task. But how can I, as a citizen who knows nothing about the problems these water boards must cope with, have any idea who might be suitable for such a function? Does someone’s political color, for instance, say anything about that person’s suitability? It would seem to me that there must be a different way to find the people who can bear the responsibilities in these important public entities. But, well, as long as there is no better system, we will have to make the best of it. In the coming days I will try to find out a bit more about the candidates and on that basis I will make up my mind.
Democracy and participation are important values. But whether or not this must always take a form whereby every individual should have a vote with equal weight may be questionable. And this would not only be true of Dutch water boards, but may also apply to other areas. Students should have a vote in the way in which their university is governed, but must the voice of each individual student be equal to those of the members of the boards of governors and the professors? If so, the students (through their numbers) would be able to have all things their way, Employees, likewise, must have a major input in the affairs of their company, but not all strategies of their company can depend on what the majority of the employees prefer.
In church organizations democracy is also good and necessary. It seems quite OK to let the majority of members decide certain things. But is this form of democracy truly the best (i.e. the majority decides, irrespective of whether all, or most, voters have a clear idea of the issues involved)? This applies, in particular when spiritual issues are at stake, such the (re-)formulation of doctrinal positions or with regard to judging a particular development in church practice (as, e.g., the ordination of female pastors). Should not, above everything else space and time be given to the Spirit of God to lead the church? Can we not wait and see where the Spirit leads us without forcing an issue by taking a majority vote?