The Dutch Ukraine-referendum: Still too much dust in the air!

dutch referendum

Anhänger der SP, der niederländischen Sozialen Partei: Gegen die EU als Festung der einseitigen neoliberalen Praxis.

By Ton Wachter
Writing about the Dutch referendum of April 6 in a detached, analytic way, is still very difficult.
Success or disaster, I can’t tell you. When you read the Dutch newspapers, or hear the discussions, one thing is obvious: for a clear view there is far too much dust in the air, even now, weeks later.

Also in the Netherlands - not too long ago the European champion of consensus - we live in times of increasing political instability.

A major problem is the fast growing group of “ anti-voters”. You find them first of all in the populist PVV (party for freedom). In the last two years the number of its supporters has doubled. I guess you already know this party: with one member, one chairman, one political leader in parliament, all in one and the same person, Geert Wilders. But with a big crowd following him - active, from time to time even aggressive. And yes, of course we know that Wilders has many colleagues throughout Europe.

Main points of this political movement: a very strong nationalism, fanatically anti-Islamic, anti-EU, pro-referendum as an extra means to express their anti-views.

Working method: a lot of strong language, endlessly repeated one-liners.

Against a neo-liberalist EU
Rather different the SP (Socialist Party): they consider the EU as the stronghold of one-sided neoliberal practices, where social aspects of Europe are neglected or even ignored. Also for them the referendum was a possibility to express their views.

At this last referendum another big group was important: the non-voters. They felt deceived by those who took the lead.

About the Ukraine-treaty, there hardly was any discussion in Dutch society until a few pressure groups started their well-organized action. In a short time they collected - mainly on-line - many more than the 300.000 supporters they needed for the referendum.
(For all the technical details and explanations, I added two useful links to Wiki-sites, see below).

One problem was their motivation: The organizers claimed to be super-democrats, but at least one of their leaders admitted that he hardly knew what the Ukraine treaty was about, they organized the referendum to increase the distance to the EU. Or probably even to create some sort of chaos, I guess.

This is the main raison that so many possible voters stayed at home. To many it was obvious that the real motive of the organizers was not of a democratic nature. They refused to support, what they considered as abuse of a democratic right.

What next?
For the Dutch government the question now is how to deal with the results of this                              “advisory” referendum. 2/3 voted NO, but the turnout was only 32 % (For the referendum 30 % was required to be valid).

“Advisory” means that the result could be ignored by the government, but since “so many” voted against, they will not. Instead, they will take their time, think it over, consult their EU-colleagues and try to change parts of the treaty (perhaps).

The referendum
What about the future of the Dutch referendum?                                                                                        The fact that only 32 % voted, only 4,15 million out of 13 million voters, and the fact that only 2,5 million voted against, made the responsible minister suggest that the (new) system is due to some (technical) changes.

I have no doubt, that there will be more Dutch referendums. The “successful democrats” have already announced that they will go on. I am quite sure, that the TTIP-treaty with the USA – the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Pact - will be next in line.

We will see…..

For your reference:
1. Wikipedia: Referendums in the Netherlands
2. Wikipedia: DutchUkraine-European Union Association Agreement referendum, 2016



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