German speakers will recognise the allusion to the Gretchenfrage: one of the characters in Johann Wolfgang Goethe‘s ‘Faust’, an innocent young woman seduced by the chief protagonist secretly in league with the devil asking: Wie hast du’s mit der Religion? – “how do you feel about religion?”. ( When reading a campaign folder of one of the 31 parties vying for votes in the Dutch general elections – uncertain though they may be under COVIT-19 – calling itself Volt.
Its programme in Dutch ( says many right things. There is a whiff of En Marche – or is it some of the spirit of the Obama campaign? (Obama 2020) Be that as it may, what I am reminded of are students a quarter of a century or so ago when my interest in European spatial planning was budding and I was for integration, full stop. They were in some European youth movement and I arranged for the to join  me at some conference on European spatial planning. Should Volt be my electoral choice?
I am not going to answer. I don’t know it. What I am willing to do is to share my considerations:
(1) Strictly proportional representation means that with 1 in 150 valid votes – 150 being the number of seats in parliament – you have one MP in the Netherlands. So there are many parties, some of them small. Not beyond the imagination that Volt might get in. Based on the one-and-only election they fought, the last one to the European Parliament, they might have three.
(2) Most of the time I vote for one and the same party having the chance to be in – or at least being listened to by – the government. Why change horses?
(3) The answer of course depends on whether Volt caters more to my preferences than my habitual choice, in fact so much more that it’s worth the risk of my vote getting lost?
Answering comes down to the Gretchenfrage as above: Volt is ‘federalist’ to the extent of being for a strong Union at the expense of member states. That at least I am willing to buy. However, critical of it as I am, should I endorse what smacks of raising state territorialism – thinking more or less exclusively in terms of inside and outside the area for which the state is responsible respectively the people living in it – to the level of the Union? No if I remain true to my belief that the future will be – should be – a ‘neo-medieval one. Yes if I let the youthful optimism of the, apparently well-informed proponents identifying many a thing that’s wrong at present and nudging us away from state territorialism. Worth the risk of wasting my vote?
Don’t hold your breath. Even if I knew it, I would not be telling my conclusion.

Obama, B. (2020) A Promised Land, Crown Publishing Group, New York.

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