UU students get a reality check

'I don't know anybody who voted for Geert Wilders'

Jongeren van Dwars op de Drift
Jongeren van DWARS op de Drift afgelopen dinsdag. Foto: DUB

“We knew that PVV was going to score big, but who would have thought they would become this big?” Psychology student Myrte tells us at UU’s Educatorium. She talked a lot about the election results during her breaks and with her roommates. “Everyone is in shock.”

“We’re well aware that students live in a left-wing bubble, especially here in Utrecht. But even the place where I come from is left-wing: GroenLinks-PvdA was the most voted party there too.” 

“No one I know knows anybody who voted for PVV. My roommate’s brother studies Journalism and he was looking for students who voted for Wilders but he couldn’t find anybody. So, these results are really a reality check for me.”

She is worried about what the Netherlands will look like with a right-wing cabinet. “What if there will be less space for minorities? What if people are no longer respected because of their religion, origin or sexual orientation? What if sustainability measures are thrown away?”

She doesn’t think the election results will influence her own study or future, though. “But maybe the country will look completely different. And that concerns me. Especially considering all the horrible things going on in the world. This only makes everything even more uncertain.”

We encounter Global Sustainability Science Eefje and Daan not too far from there. Effje watched the results at TivoliVredenburg, where the political podcast De Kiesmannen was aired live.

“The vibe was gloomy after the exit poll. Most people there had voted for a left-wing party, as you can imagine. Some of the people who took the stage shared moving personal stories, which spoke to me.”

Daan worked for 16 hours at a voting station near Vleutensweg. When the results were announced, later that night, he was hungover. “I’d never been this involved with politics. I felt bad as I went to bed and I was still thinking about it the next morning.” 

Their choice of study indicates how much they care about climate issues around the world and how society should tackle them. Daan: “I find it hard to accept that there is so little recognition and support for what I do.”

Eefje adds: “I feel as though my bubble was suddenly burst last Wednesday. Of course, we know that not everyone is aware of climate change and that usually people are resistant to left-wing politics, but even so…”

They’re holding on to hopes that PVV will not manage to form a coalition and that it will not be so easy to abandon climate agreements made with the UN and other international institutions.

Eefje: “But it’s still pretty bad that many of the progresses we’ve made in terms of climate and environmental measures will be reversed. Such a shame.”

Daan: “Most of all, I hope that PVV will tone it down within a coalition, as they said they would. The question that remains is why so many people voted for that party. I think governments have been conservative for too long in the Netherlands. The left had good plans to tackle that, but they didn’t manage to communicate that well enough, so PVV took advantage of that and blamed immigrants for a lot of problems.”

Not a deal breaker  
We met Arend, a student of Social Geography and Planning, in the Administration Building. He followed the election night on TV alongside his roommates at IBB. “When the exit poll results were announced, we were shocked. Everyone was shocked, including those who hadn’t voted for a left-wing party like I did.” 

He is sad and mad, but also a little bit in denial. “Everyone I talk to is not happy with these results. That’s the worst thing, actually: that there is a large group of people that thinks differently than you and there is nobody you can ask to explain that to you.”

After all, he just doesn’t get it. “Apparently, for many voters, it is not a deal breaker if a politician sets more than a million people apart as second-class citizens, excuses racism, and normalises othering entire population groups. It look like the far-right has become mainstream now.”

He thinks it’s nonsense that Wilders will tone it down. “Xenophobia is in that party’s DNA. The fact that he is now covering it up somewhat is just a strategy because he wants to rule.”

Arend is not afraid of his own future. “But I am afraid of what PVV’s plans will mean in the long run for the climate, for the rule of law, and for the freedom of press, to name but a few.”

Head and shoulders  
Psychology student Romy had agreed to watch the election results with some friends from the LGBTQIA+ student association Anteros. Fear and disbelief were the first emotions they felt. They decided to go out to make it a fun night anyway but they ended up going home early.

“A few days before the elections, I couldn’t imagine that Wilders would be the biggest one. Maybe I was naïve, but I just didn’t see it coming. But it did happen, and they stand head and shoulders above the rest.”

In addition to fearing that the climate goals will disappear from view, she is afraid that the queer community she belongs to will have a much harder time from now on. Wilders has spoken unfavourably of transgender and non-binary people. “PVV also refused to sign the rainbow agreement.”

Most of all, she feels “ashamed, very ashamed” when she thinks of immigrants and undocumented people in the Netherlands. She knows a few refugees personally because her mother lives in an apartment building where some of the neighbours are refugees. “I’d like to shout out that I’m sorry.”

She is still looking for ways to express her disgust. She is going to participate in a protest in Utrecht. She also thinks that there should some kind of symbol that people could wear to show that they stand in solidarity with groups of people who now risk being oppressed.

After all, she doesn’t believe that people who voted for PVV really think that people in need should be left to fend for themselves. “I think this has mostly been a big protest vote for somebody who found an easy scapegoat.”