The new Dutch government, under Prime Minister Rutte, yesterday announced in its coalition agreement that they will abolish the Law on the Consultative Referendum.
The decision leaves many Dutch citizens feeling that politicians are only interested in their vote, but not in their opinions. The large majority of the Dutch population is in favour of holding referendums and want more direct democracy, but the brand-new government is now cutting one of the only tools available to them.
There is also a large parliamentary majority to maintain the referendum. The political parties that included the referendum in their election programme occupy 60% of the seats in parliament. Abolishing it is anti-democratic in every way!
We have fought long and hard to win the right to express ourselves directly: the corrective referendum was greenlighted by a special committee as early as 1985, but it wasn’t introduced until 2015. Abolishing the referendum law, after only two years, is a major step back and an international first: never before has a state abolished the right to hold referendums!
So why is this happening in the Netherlands? The 2016 referendum on the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement has left Dutch politics shocked and seems to have sent parties into a fit of ‘demophobia': fear of the people. But the future of Dutch democracy should not depend on a single experience. Democratic rules of the game must be based on principles, not opportunism.
The consultative referendum is a new tool, and the Netherlands still have to learn how to make the best use of it, but abolishing it now is not the way. The House of Representatives had agreed in the initial referendum law that after three years (i.e. next summer) the law must be evaluated by the Parliament, following a public report by the Minister of the Interior.
This is why we are asking you to support our campaign to stop the abolition of the referendum: www.meerdemocratie.nl/referendum
If you are Dutch, please sign the petition, if you are not, share our messages and help us get the word out.
Thank you very much!
Arjen Nijeboer and Niesco Dubbelboer,