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ChangeVU and VSP win Student Council elections

New parties ChangeVU and VSP have won the Student Council elections, with the traditionally dominant SRVU losing heavily. But there is disquiet over the campaign conducted by the right-wing VSP.

ChangeVU has emerged as the biggest party in the University Student Council (Universitaire Studentenraad, USR) elections, with 42 per cent of the vote. The right-wing Outspoken Students Party (Vrijmoedige Studentenpartij, VSP) also performed strongly, polling 25 per cent.

SRVU, traditionally the largest party, lost considerable ground and attracted just 14 per cent of the vote. Newcomer URVU (Our Representative VU), an SRVU breakaway, also received 14 per cent.

This political upheaval is due partly to the electoral system at VU Amsterdam, which requires all faculties to be represented on the central USR. That automatically delivered two seats to the VSP, since it was the only party to field candidates in Religion & Theology and in Law. Likewise, ChangeVU was guaranteed one seat as the sole party to stand in the School of Business and Economics. SRVU vied for a seat representing the faculties of Science and of Medicine.

Higher turnout

Another – modest – winner was the turnout. Whereas last year it was 9.27 per cent, this year 14.65 per cent of eligible students cast their votes.

These are preliminary figures. The university’s Electoral Commission will issue its official report of the elections later this week. As yet, Ad Valvas has received little concrete data about the results from the individual faculties.

Less politicised

International student Vincent Mesrine, the founder of ChangeVU and first elected to the USR last year, says he is very pleased with the result. “We’ve worked very hard in the past year to gain more exposure.” With 2001 votes this year, his party quadrupled its 2023 figure.

ChangeVU differs from SRVU in that the party is non-activist and less politicised, Mesrine says. “We want to focus on results, not opinions. For example, we don’t have a political position on whether there should be more or fewer international students.” Likely Mesrine doesn’t know his party’s policy plan by heart, which mentions ‘more internationalisation at VU’ as one of the ChageVU’s goals.

ChangeVU seeks pragmatic solutions within the system, he continues. “Solutions that are in the interests of students. We’ve already achieved a lot in the past year. That students who need extra time for an exam are now seated at the back, so that they are not bothered by latecomers. And that there’s going to be an additional confidential counsellor for students.”

Leftist tears

Tom de Nooijer, a presenter on broadcaster Ongehoord Nederland and a close associate of Uljee and his party, founder of the VSP, writes on X that students are “done with woke and cancel culture! Long live academic freedom!” He also posted a video on X in which he dances with an excited Uljee after hearing the result. Apparently, “many physical leftist tears” had been shed. Meanwhile, the VSP has falsely claimed to have become the largest party and that lead candidate Marise Visser received the most USR votes ever. In fact that was SRVU lead candidate Desiree Baaleman in 2015, with 719 votes.

Uljee and the VSP conducted a controversial campaign, including attacks on gender inclusiveness, VU Pride and the Decolonisation LAB which attracted coverage in national newspaper De Telegraaf and on Ongehoord Nederland. The party distributed stickers reading “There are two genders! Do you still dare to say that?” In a report aired by Ongehoord Nederland in which, amongst other things, Uljee rails against gender diversity and argues that people like him are being excluded, students were filmed without their consent.

Targeted intimidation

“This appears to be a form of targeted intimidation directed towards LGBTQ students”, says SRVU president Sylke van Kempen, “because the stickers were put up in the gender-neutral toilets and around the VU Pride library.”

Several parties complained to the Electoral Commission and the Executive Board about this method of campaigning. “But”, says Van Kempen, “because there are no regulations for campaigning, for what’s acceptable and what isn’t, nothing could be done about it. Other parties have complained about this because we are afraid that things will only worsen next year.”

In fact, she claims, ChangeVU was reprimanded by the Electoral Commission when the party criticised the VSP campaign. ChangeVU founder Vincent Mesrine confirms that: “We were told to be careful.”


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