Newsletter N°4 - March 2018
We can't let the Dutch government click "undo" on citizens' rights
For almost 20 years, I have campaigned for direct democracy in the Netherlands. With Meer Democratie, known as the Referendum Platform back then, we gained our biggest success in July 2015, when the Consultative Referendum Law entered into force. It gives 300,000 citizens the right to trigger a national non-binding referendum on laws and treaties. Even non-binding, this was a clear win for the citizens, as the parliament would feel politically obligated to follow the outcome.
In April 2016, the first referendum on the basis of this law took place, about the Association Treaty between the EU and the Ukraine. A majority of 61% voted against while a large majority of parliament had voted in favor. Many politicians hated the referendum. They claimed people had voted "no" for reasons that had nothing to do with the Association Treaty, even though research by political scientists disproved this.
Not even three years after it entered into force, the new Dutch government is now trying to get rid of the referendum law. This would make the Netherlands the only modern European country to go back on direct democratic rights asides from Communist East Germany!
As they knew that triggering a referendum on the abolishment of the referendum is legally possible, and Meer Democratie and other groups had already announced that they would do just that, they came up with dirty legal tricks to block this. They plan to let the Repeal Law that abolishes the referendum, go into effect retroactively: their Repeal Law will travel back in time to block citizens from handing in signatures for a referendum on the referendum.
We cannot let them click “undo” on our rights! Meer Democratie has started two crowdfunded court cases to demand that the government respects the referendum law, which says that any attempt to let a new law – including the Repeal Law – enter into force before citizens have had the opportunity to request a referendum, is legally void. Legally, we cannot stop them from abolishing the referendum, but we can demand that the government does not place itself above the law and allows a referendum on the Repeal Law.
We aren’t sure that we will win. But we are sure that we will fight until the end.
Campaign Manager at Meer Democratie and Member of the board of Democracy International