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Dutch doors open to direct democracy

Dutch doors open to direct democracy


On Thursday, 14 February 2013, the lower house of the Dutch parliament adopted legislation to introduce a non-binding facultative referendum. With this instrument of direct democracy, 300,000 citizens can trigger a national referendum on a law or treaty passed by the national parliament.

The draft legislation was drawn up by the Dutch Labour party, the Democrats (D66) and GroenLinks in 2005, but was kept on hold since then. The legislation foresees three steps: At first 10 000 signatures will be necessary to call for a facultative referendum. Subsequently, 300.000 eligible voters have to back the initiative. Given this support, a national referendum on the law passed by the national parliament has to take place. However, the result of the referendum will be non-binding. 

The referendum platform in the Netherlands, a partner of Democracy International, has been campaigning for the new referendum law adopted yesterday in the Dutch parliament. Arjen Nijeboer (Referendum Platform) welcomes that the law for a facultative referendum foresees a referendum commission, an information brochure featuring both sides of the campaign as well as two million euro of funding for the campaigners. In contrast, the merely consultative character of the referendum is assessed as a weak point. Yet, the Dutch activists for direct democracy hope that the facultative referendum will unfold the necessary political impact to make the political leaders comply with its result.  

The draft legislation will now move to the upper house of parliament for consideration.

Further information: 

The Referendum Platform in the Netherlands at

Text by Cora Pfafferott

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