Live-blogging the referendum in the Netherlands

23:20– Should add (and that really is the last thing I write before going to bed) that EU leaders have confirmed they want the ratification process to continue. Juncker said so again, as did Schröder. Seems the only exception is Blair – well, and of course the Czech president Klaus, but he is not in charge of the executive so that does not count. I am ambivalent about this. Yes, of course the votes in favour by 49% of the EU population (whether or not directly in a referendum) should count, as do those of the people who have not even had the opportunity yet to vote. My democratic instincts urge me to agree with the government leaders. But my Constitution instincts (or would that be the pragmatic civil servant within me?) say: ‘Don’t! It’s a lot of hassle, and it is only going to harm the Constitution (whatever form it will take in future agreements) even further.’ So perhaps not then.
23:05– The euro is falling against the dollar. We had 1.2550 dollars per euro on 29 May, before the French referendum. Before the Dutch results came in the exchange rate was 1.2250, but it fell to 1.2162 within an hour or so. Right now, the rate has risen again to 1.2185. For euro haters: the British pound has been making the same movements against the dollar for the past few hours.
22:43– More statistics to close the TV night: 60% of those voting ‘yes’ was a man, which proves that voting no is for sissies :-) About 44% of the ‘no’ voters was older than 50 years.
22:39– Amsterdam, supposedly the Netherlands’ most cosmopolitan city: 42.3% yes, 57.7% no.
22:35– Prime Minister now says government will withdraw the ratification bill.
22:11– Debate getting interesting: the first victims of this outcome are… Romania and Turkey. Christian-democrat parliamentary leader Verhagen brings up rising corruption in Romania as an argument why voters may have said “EU integration is going too fast”. Christian-fundamentalist Rouvoet jumps in, saying: and Turkey too!
22:00– Final debate: Government parties want the government to withdraw the ratification law. Anti-Constitution parties want a parliamentary vote – in order to rub it in?
21:55– Christian fundamentalist fishing village Urk votes 92% no, go figure… Remarkable: a clear majority of the people (58%) thinks the government does not need to step down on the basis of this referendum result. Only 26% thinks the opposite. Opinions on the question if a new referendum could be held in a year’s time are divided: 44% in favour, 46% against. Also remarkable, and positive news: political support for referenda as a democratic means does not seem to have diminished, even in the pro-Constitution camp. Almost the contrary: many politicans keep underlining that the referendum has proved itself a useful instrument to involve people in political decision-making.
21:35– Balkenende press conference: This is a clear outcome, which we regret but respect. What is good, is that there was a high turnout and a wide discussion on Europe. This referendum was initiated by Parliament, because it wanted an advice from the population before taking a decision. So it is up to Parliament to take the next step, in the debate that will take place tomorrow. The government wants the ratification process to continue: we have to know what each of the Member States’ position is before we take any next steps. This result is not a vote against EU cooperation. The Netherlands will remain a constructive partner in the EU. The Prime Minister will point out to his colleagues that the Dutch ‘no’ “must be done justice”, explaining the motives that played a role in the campaign. The government understands the voters’ objections concerning the speed of EU integration, their concerns about the loss of Dutch identity and about the Dutch net contribution to the EU. He refuses to mention which concrete demands the government will put on the table. In the past, the EU was too much the domain of the political elite, this will have to change. The government will do its best.
21:23– Brave faces on the yes side, triumphant smiles on the no side: “The voters have won today”. Yes parties say they will follow the referendum result. No “political consequences” (= ministers stepping down), say the government parties. Pro-referendum parties happy with the high turnout, despite being in favour of the Constitutions. TV points out that the countries that have ratified the Constitution already represent 49% of the EU population, whereas the Netherlands and France represent only 17%.
21:00– First exit poll: 37 % yes, 63 % no. FUCK!!! Turnout 62%.
20:49– The first results have yet to arrive, but the debate about the campaign and about the referendum as a means to take decisions has begun already. In the TV programme Netwerk, pro-campaigner Michiel van Hulten (a former social-democrat MEP) says that the pro-campaign was amateurish and started too late. I fully agree. If it is going to be a no, this democratic amateurism will have been one of the main causes.
20:14– Turnout was 50% at 19:00. The polls close at 21:00, which is when the first exit polls will be published (this one for versac ;-)).
17:41 – Turnout was 31% at 16:00, which is 10 %-points higher than at the same hour during the European elections in 2004. As turnout then became 39% eventually, extrapolation leads to a predicted turnout of around 58% today. More importantly, turnout has already passed the 30% threshold set by the christian-democrat CDA and the social-democrat PvdA parties for taking over the result.
14:00– Lots of foreign media besiege the Dutch Parliament building in The Hague. I see BBC, Germans, Belgians, Spanish, Czechs and others. Our fifteen minutes of European attention.
9:00– For the first time in years, I voted in an ordinary voting booth instead of by letter from Foreign. Cool, they are using computers now!

9 Responses to “Live-blogging the referendum in the Netherlands”

  1. Pascal Van Hecke Says:

    Dear people of URK and the wider Netherlands,

    I just saw the results for your vote: 75% turnout, 92% NO, 8% YES.

    You just gave an overwhelming majority to a coalition of far-right Wilders, LPF, far-left SP and the christian-fundamendalists. Could you please be somewhat consistent in your voting behaviour in the next national elections so you REALLY can experience what you’ve been voting for?

    We’ll speak again afterwards. Please don’t bother us before that time.


    Belgium, still not plagued by ridiculous referendums

  2. Pascal Van Hecke Says:

    I can’t believe my ears while listening to the debate… yes yes, people of URK, you’ll get them, referendums on

    – lower taxes and better welfare at the same time
    – speed driving fines
    – abolition of nuclear energy and fighting the greenhouse effect

    you really live in God’s own country!

  3. Mark Giebels Says:

    I’m flabbergasted that you don’t press for a vote in parliament. The Dutch parliament asked the people of the Netherlands by way of this referendum how they should vote regarding the ratification of the EU constitution. The answer was clear. And now you want them to ignore this answer and not vote at all?


  4. versac Says:

    Thanks for the live blogging. I was confused with the time on afoe.
    Looks like Balkenende still is a better leader than Chirac, who still hasn’t saif a word about what he will do about the european constrcution. Neither did our new PM this evening. In the french government, there is a new taboo : europe.
    We’re going to have a big struggle between Blair and other continental leaders. we’ll see in 2 weeks.

  5. eulogist Says:

    @Mark: I’m flabbergasted at your flabbergastedness! The answer is clear, what is the point of having a formal vote? Procedures over substance? (Hey, that sounds familiar… which party did you say you vote? :-P)

    @Versac: Balkenende a better leader than Chirac? Ouch, you really don’t like your president very much, do you? :D
    (PS: Loved the “Knights who say nee” reference, can’t believe no one came up with that over here! Perhaps because the pronunciation is like French ‘né’ rather than English ‘knee’)

  6. Mark Giebels Says:

    No, no, no, the political parties that have asked the government to withdraw the ratification law are the ones that play procedural games. Why not just vote? Why do they want to avoid it? I’m pretty sure they have a good reason for that…. :-(

  7. versac Says:

    Oh, non, I don’t really like my president that much, as you can see. I don’t know that much of Balkenende, but he looks “average” to me, where Chirac is a ‘miserable failure’. 10 years president and still nothing but a major political and social crisis in the country. His only reaction being ton nominate Villepin, his fellow lieutenant, in PM’s office. Nice, isn’t it ?

    Sorryy for the monty python reference, I took it from Kenvin Drum’s blog. I know you say “né”, after all, I have a Dutch name, but I couldn’t resist the image of these fool knights.

  8. Mark Giebels Says:

    BTW, if the EU supporters like you and me are not jumping on the No bandwagon right now, this train is going to be hijacked by the nationalists. As democrats it’s our responsibility to connect this clear No from the people with a pro Europe vision. European integration should be the goal, not this specific constitution.

  9. eulogist Says:

    @Mark: I fully agree (with your last reply, that is).

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