Next wednesday, the people of the Netherlands are going to vote on their new government. We have a slightly different system than some other countries. On wednesday we get to cast our vote on one of twenty-two parties. They range from Christian parties, to parties who fight for animal rights, the rights of workers or to parties who simply take a left or right wing approach to all issues. With our votes, the parties divide 150 literal seats in government. The biggest parties will try to come together and get a majority, or--and this has not really worked well in the past--the smaller parties come together to form a majority.

For weeks, my T.V., radio, roadside and randomly generated internet advertisements have been spamming me with messages of the various parties. All are trying to get my vote. One thing is sure; voting is difficult. Whomever we vote for will have to come to an agreement on staying or leaving the EU, on providing financial support to Greece, on putting together a way to minimize our economic deficit so the EU won't fine us, on fines for students who take more than the set amount of years for a study, and many, many, many other, difficult, issues.

I have been debating myself on which party to vote for. What I haven't been debating is the decision to vote. Because I will vote, no matter what. I strongly believe that the right to vote should not be wasted. As a young woman, I wouldn't have been able to vote even a hundred years ago... and if I lived in ancient Hellas, I most certainly would not be able to.

The right to vote, in ancient Hellas, was reserved for only a hand full of people. In order to be eligible to vote on anything, you had to fulfill a good couple of criteria:
  • You had to be male
  • Both of your parents had to be Greek citizens
  • You had to be a landowner
  • You had to be an adult
  • In Athens, you needed to have completed your military training as ephebes
  • Also in Athens, your right to citizenship could not be under suspicion
This means that children, women, slaves, foreigners and landless men were not allowed to vote on any decision put in front of the assembly. Around 10 to 20 percent of the whole of the citizens of Athens could vote. this number gives a fair idea about the voting in ancient Hellas as a whole. But despite the limited voters, ancient Hellas, and especially Athens, was definitely a democracy. The word 'democracy' (δημοκρατία) is made up of two, Greek, words: dêmos (δῆμος), meaning 'people' and krátos (κράτος) meaning 'power' or 'force'. In fact, in ancient Hellas, no one voted on a person to represent them; they represented themselves.

I greatly encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote. For Dutch voters, this may be especially prudent because the votes which have not been cast, get divided equally between the 22 parties. This means that your vote could end up with the party you oppose the most. If you really don't know who to vote for, vote 'blank'. This way, your vote gets taken out completely.

The right to vote, either looking at it from a modern or ancient perspective, is exactly that; a right, a privilege. Besides children, most of us now have the right to vote. We have a right to voice our opinion and make a stand. It may be difficult, confusing and it may even seem like your vote won't matter, but if you don't voice your preference and those who would vote opposite of you, do... well... you can only blame yourself if your candidate doesn't win, right?