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They want to be in Leiden's council

Many students and members of staff at Leiden University are politically active. In the run up to the local elections on 21 March candidates in The Hague and Leiden explain why you should vote for them, and what they want to do if they are elected. In this article, the Leiden candidates.

Marleen Damen (Labour Party, local party leader)

‘My name is Marleen Damen, I'm 44 years old and a former student of Political Science. I came to Leiden to study 27 years ago and never left. Leiden is the city I love, where I broadened my horizons and where I developed to become the person I am today. Leiden is also where I met my husband and where my three daughters were born. 

In recent years, as an alderman, I have worked with the people of Leiden to make our city greener, stronger and more socially aware. I want to continue with that work. The Labour Party wants to combat  the growing division in society and make sure that everyone can play a part. Leiden may be prospering, but not everyone in the city is doing well. 

My study propgramme helped me get to know the city and to develop to become the person I am today. Freedom is an important concept at Leiden University: the freedom to be yourself and to develop to become who you want. I 've carried that motivation with me throughout my working career. It's a motivation that I also recognise in the Labour Party: if we give everyone opportunities, everyone can play a full part in society.'  

Pieter Krol (Christian Union, local party leader)

‘My name is Pieter Krol, and I'm 27. I've lived in Leiden since 2008, when I started to study Psychology. Since the summer of 2014 I've been working at the Central Administration department at Leiden University, and as chair of the University Council.

I want to put an end to the power wielded by project developers in Leiden and make sure that they only build houses and offices in line with set policies and in discussion with residents. It is clear that more houses are needed in Leiden but as far as the Christian Union is concerned, that cannot be at the cost of the livability of the city. It's time to make residents responsible for their own neighbourhood.    

As a graduate in psychology, I'm interested in processes between and among people, such as between governors and council members, but also between management and the administrative organisation, and between politicians and citizens. With my study background, I believe in having a good management and decision-making process because I believe that that improves the quality of governance in Leiden.' 

Alyssa Voorwald (People's Party for  Freedom and Democracy)

‘My name is Alyssa Voorwald, and I am 26 years old. I obtained my bachelor's in English Language and Culture and Political Science and my master's in Political Science in Leiden. I'm currently personal assistant to MP Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius. I work on the energy and climate portfolios and on emancipation and media. 

There is an enormous shortage of accommodation for starters and older people in Leiden. I see it all around me: lots of people would like to live in Leiden but there is too little affordable housing, so they have to move away. Older people, too, run into problems when they want to find sheltered accommodation. They're often forced to leave the neighbourhood they live in, which makes it difficult to maintain social contacts. Those are the areas I want to do something about.  

During my studies, in combination with an active student life as a member of student association Augustinus, I was able to work on my personal development across many different areas. I am able to assimilate large amounts of information, I have a good understanding of political relations and a critical mindset. Those are all important attributes in the local council.' 

Amela Halilovic (Democrats 66)

‘I am Amela Halilovic, 28 years old and I studied Public Administration. I'm now working as a lobbyist for Public Affairs Agency BPRA in The Hague. I lobby for different companies, organisations and professional bodies in the care sector. 

Over the coming four years I want to work with D66 to build a more future-proof and healthy city where it is pleasant for everyone to live, work and do sports. That means in concrete terms that we want more sustainable housing for starters, students and middle-income groups and good sports facilities in the city.  

My Public Administration programme contributed to my knowledge of government and politics. That gives me a firm foundation for working as a member of the local council.  The social aspects of studying are often forgotten. Communicating and working together are what local councils are all about. I definitely believe Leiden University encouraged students to acquire these social skills.' 

Lianne Raat (Party for the Animals)

‘I am Lianne Raat, I'm 31 years old and I studied Law in Leiden from 2006 to 2012. After graduating, I started to work as a legal expert for Cedar BV, the combined service centre for around six copyright organisations, and I'm still there today. 

The Party for the Animals is the only political party in Leiden that bases its policies on the interests of all living beings, humans and animals. We stand for a greener, more sustainable and more animal-friendly Leiden. We want to double the number of trees, have greener neighbourhoods and a climate-neutral Leiden by 2030. I'd also like to see the municipality ban the sale of fur.  

My legal background will be useful in council work. As a legal expert I am well used to ploughing through thick packages of paper - digitally, of course! – and I can easily get to the essence of reports, sorting out what's important and what's not. Those issues that are subsidiary for most parties are generally key concerns for the Party for the Animals because we are the only party that doesn't put human beings in first place.' 

Gebke van Gaal (GreenLeft)

‘I am Gebke van Gaal, and I'm 44. I studied Psychology in Leiden. I was in the University Council and the Faculty Council and also set up the Aware and Progressive (Bewust en Progressief, BeP) party. I still go to the annual dinner with chairmen and former chairmen of my student association.

I'm very concerned that more than nine per cent of households in Leiden have to manage on a low income over a long period of time. This group deserves our urgent attention and they don't ask for that themselves. I want to make sure that the council's budget for combatting poverty is actually spent on helping this group in society, that we break down barriers and that everyone has access to acute and preventive support. That way we can achieve a fair and pleasant city where everyone can take part and enjoy prosperity and wellbeing.

I am currently working as Director of Innovation and Agile Transformation at Albert Heijn. Over the past twenty years I have worked mainly as a change manager, including for my own company. I still feel the benefits of my study programme every day, particularly the lectures in statistics, development psychology and all the experience I gained in my many subsidiary activities.' 

Joost Bleijie (Christian Democratic Appel, local party leader)

'I am Joost Bleijie, born and bred in Leiden. I studied History at our Leiden University. During my student time I was chairman of the Augustinus association, the best year of my whole student life. I am currently policy adviser to the mayor in the municipality of Nieuwkoop and in my spare time I write for the local newspaper Leids Nieuwsblad and I'm a vlogger for Leiden.tv.

We mustn't let Leiden become packed with high-rise buildings so that alumni no longer recognise the city. Leiden currently needs 10,000 new homes, but that number simply can't be achieved in Leiden unless it's at the cost of green, sportsfields, parks, meadows, or business parks. The CDA wants to put this housing obligation up for discussion, with the aim of reducing that number in order to avoid having so many high-rise towers. 

I graduated as a city historian. Knowledge of the history of Leiden is a great help in present-day politics. Why do we celebrate a Rembrandt year, for example, or what's the origin of the Lakenhal, for example? All these things were part of my history studies.' 

Accountability

For this article Leiden University's news editors contacted all the political parties in The Hague and Leiden, asking them to have the questions answered by an alumnus, student or staff member of Leiden University who is on the list of candidates. Political parties that do not feature in this article do not have candidates on their list who are students, alumni or staff of the University, or they did not respond to our request. 

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