September 04, 2017
Dutch referendum: never again?
The Dutch political class was badly shaken by the consultative referendum which opposed ratification of the EU-Ukraine association agreement in April last year. The agreement still hasn't been ratified despite the European Council's attempt to accommodate the result of the referendum by attaching an interpretative declaration to the agreement, partly because the Dutch political parties are taking over five months already to form a government out of the parliament returned by the March general election. But one thing the four parties negotiating the next cabinet seem to agree on is the need to scrap the consultative referendum law. According to Telegraaf, Mark Rutte's VVD and the Christian parties CDA and CU are all in agreement. The left-liberal D66, which was a big advocate of the referendum law on the grounds of democratisation, is now dissatisfied with the way the referendum law has worked in practice. D66 would prefer referendums to be binding, which would at least give clarity about a vote's meaning, but there seems to be little chance that the reform will go in that direction.
Nevertheless, the delay in forming the next government may mean that another referendum will sneak in before the door is closed. A group of students from Amsterdam are calling for a referendum on a new wiretapping law, which is set to come into force on January 1st. The Dutch Council of State on Friday confirmed that the students have gathered the requisite 10,000 signatures which now gives them another six weeks to gather at least 300,000. If they succeed, there would have to be a referendum within six months. The wiretapping law will come into force on January 1st regardless, even though the referendum law provides that laws should be suspended when there's a referendum pending on them. The caretaker interior minister Ronald Plasterk from the PvdA argues that there is time pressure for the law to come into force due to the need to fight terrorism more effectively, and that the parliament supports this.