The Dutch Jack-in-the-Box

As reported in last night’s news feed, 61% of Dutch voters who participated in Wednesday’s referendum voted against a closer relationship between the European Union and Ukraine. Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends this account of the little April surprise delivered to the EU by the Netherlands.

The Dutch jack-in-the-box

by H Numan

On Wednesday 6 April we held our first real national referendum. And … we won it! (So far, that is.)

Last year parliament passed a law allowing a consultative referendum. The law was phrased very carefully. We don’t want too much democracy, do we? One needs at least 10,000 signatures collected within fourteen days to apply for a national referendum. Once you get those, you have six weeks to collect at least 300,000 signatures to get that national referendum going. Those are pretty tough requirements for a country with 17 million inhabitants. Applying for referendum topics is limited. You can’t ask for a referendum on existing laws, nor laws being debated in parliament. Only on laws recently passed by parliament, and within the first ten weeks. The government can reject a valid referendum request for reasons such as national security. Even if a referendum is called for, and won (for example, the Ukraine referendum), a referendum is consultative, not legislative. The government is not required to honor it. It can reject it at will.

Very shortly after the referendum law was passed in parliament, the group ‘GeenPeil’ (No Level) was formed, probably or at least firmly supported by the very popular and biggest Dutch blog site Geenstijl (No Style). Difficult to place them in a political corner: they lash out at everyone. Wilders is a favorite target, but so is just about anyone else. You can safely consider them to be young and aggressive conservatives, Dutch style. That has nothing at all to do with UK conservatives or US republicans. The followers of that blog are called ‘reaguurders’ (bastardized Dutch for responders), and are almost all (+90%) staunch supporters of the PVV.

GeenStijl launched a number of controversial campaigns. Some successful, others not so much. One of their first actions was linking a migration database to the national zip code. Type in your zip code, and they show you how many minorities (read: Muslims) live there. It created an outrage within our politically correct society. The link is on the home page, in the right bottom corner. Look for allochtoon-o-meter. Another very successful action was an interview — or rather the lack of it — with minister for integration and housing Ella Vogelaar in 2007. She refused to speak and looked a like a fish gasping for air. This interview was so embarrassing that her party forced her to resign the next day.

A not-so-successful action was to set up an independent TV station in the Dutch media system. The idea was to attack the politically correct media in the same way as GeenStijl attacks the political establishment. It was funded with massive reaguurders crowd-sourcing, but very soon after they got started, they accepted the really big money by becoming politically correct. PowNed (colloquial for owned) still exists, but has lost contact with their main focus group. The reaguurders who made PowNed possible feel they have been (P)owned. PowNed was a GeenStijl initiative, but the two are no longer on speaking terms.

This time they carefully choose a target to call for a national referendum. The EU Association Treaty with Ukraine was selected. Why? Because it wasn’t a national security issue, so it couldn’t be blocked on that ground. It passed parliament the week before, fitting nicely in the required time schedule. And because it stinks to high heaven. In a nutshell: the EU wants to quietly expand a bit further to the east by absorbing Ukraine. The +2500 pages of the association treaty don’t mention full membership, of course. But it does give Ukrainians freedom of movement anywhere within the EU this year, promises military assistance, trainloads of money (about 190 billion, of which +130 billion is hidden away under different names) and possible provisional membership in due time. What does Ukraine have to do in return? Nothing at all. Yes, they have to reduce corruption ‘to the best of their abilities’, that sort of fluffy empty blabla.

I don’t think I have to mention the fact that Russia is less than pleased with Ukraine teaming up with the EU, do I? That fact, whether you approve or not, is extremely dangerous. I can very well imagine Putin drawing a red line, and, unlike a certain Mr. Hussein, sticking to it.

The treaty was already rubber stamped OK by the EU ‘parliament’ and all national parliaments. But … it states specifically that it requires unanimous approval of all member states. If one state votes against it, the association treaty is null and void. The Dutch initiative for a referendum was a rude wake-up call for Brussels.

So, GeenStijl/GeenPeil got busy, and asked for the required 10,000 starting signatures. They got them with ease, within a couple of days. The next level, getting 300,000 signatures, was much more difficult. But they did it: 427,000 valid signatures within six weeks. That meant that the referendum was on.

Getting permission to hold a referendum doesn’t mean that you can actually do it. Voting costs money! Part of it was given by the government, but grudgingly and by far not enough. A normal national election costs about 40 million. The referendum got less than a third of it. A lot of municipalities found — miraculously — plenty of reasons to reduce the number of voting stations, and pocketed the money. Most mayors stated that they expected a very low turnout of voters, so there wasn’t any need for so many voting stations. Corruption? No, of course not. We put that money into our municipal coffers. Not our own pockets! Some cities reduced the number of voting stations by as much as 75%. On average it was 25% less.

Another nice little trick to hinder the referendum was the voting form itself:

A clever civil servant designed it in such a way that it’s very easy to cast an invalid vote. In order to vote, you have to color the white circle in the black square red. NOT color the entire box. On my voting form (I live abroad and was able to cast my vote by mail a month earlier) it specifically used the word ‘box’ in such a way I had to look a couple of times at what exactly I had to mark red. On the form it uses the word ‘stipje’ (dot); in the accompanying letter they said ‘box’.

The polls consistently favored the no vote by a large margin. So large, that the government didn’t even bother to campaign. There were a few parties that actively campaigned for a yes vote: D66 (social democrats) for example did, and the Hungarian George Soros tossed a lot of money on it. Why did he do that? No idea. What do Hungary or Hungarian citizens have to do with a Dutch referendum? Not much, I’d say. Anyway, it did make those accepting his money look like they accepted a bribe. Joshua Livestro did; he was already a known political opportunist (or scavenger, if you prefer) before collecting his 30 pieces of silver. Now he is widely nicknamed Livestropop — a stropop is a straw man.

I told the Baron the day before the referendum I was really worried the government was going for 29% or less. By withholding funds and complicating the ballot form. In North Korea, a democratic poll needs > 99.5% approval ratings. Along the North Sea they need < 29.9% turn out ratings. In Germany they used to say: we have ways to make you talk. In Holland the government said: we have ways to make you (not) vote.

The next morning I was surprised to see the referendum passed. About 32% of the voters turned out, making it a valid referendum. 61.1% voted against, and 38.1% in favor. 0.8% of the ballots were invalid. (Which makes me look a bit like a fool worrying about that tricky form, right?)

When the referendum was called for, Jean-Claude Juncker, the El Supremo of the EU, threatened fire and brimstone if the Dutch had the gumption to vote no. The sky would fall down, Russia would invade, rainbows would disappear, his job the EU would be in grave and mortal danger. That sort of thing.

As he couldn’t be reached for comments, journalists tried his trusty sidekick, Mr. Herman van Rompuy. Who, in the midst of the interview, simply hung up the phone. Talk about sore losers…

The EU as well as the Ukrainian government already said it wouldn’t change the association treaty in the slightest. It had already been passed by all parliaments, so they consider the case is closed. The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as well as all Dutch faction leaders said something different. Rutte said that the massive no vote requires some serious rethinking. He needs time for that. Lots of time. (At least as much time as forgetting the MH17 case needed.) All faction leaders said they would want their parties as well as the government to honor the referendum results. Including Labor and even D66. They both are firm supporters of that treaty.

Abroad I can report that responses are varied. Most agree that this was a really massive kick in the EU groin. A kick with a Dutch clog truly hurts! First of all, the Dutch PM is EU chairman of the day. Rather embarrassing that this happens on his watch. Second, in reality this is a vote against the EU. The organizers said so openly themselves. It’s a repeat, or a revenge, for the rejected referendum on the EU constitution which was simply renamed Lisbon Treaty instead of EU Constitution. Third, it paves the way for the British referendum on the 23rd of June. You can rest assured that Mr. Cameron now has a lot of work ahead of him. This will be an enormous boost for the no camp there anyway. Fourthly, ignoring this referendum or renaming the treaty won’t work this time.

I’m pretty sure that’s what Juncker and friends will do or try to do. We’ll quietly pass a law that agreements don’t require parliamentary approval. Rename the association treaty into the Ukraine-EU Friendship Agreement, and we’re done! Not right away, of course. We have to ‘rethink’ matters of course. Until something else replaces the issue in the news, and attention is focused elsewhere. A new terrorist attack, financial crisis or whatever. Then, on a rainy afternoon, they will quietly approve it.

Not this time, Mr. Juncker. That trick has been pulled a bit too often. The Lisbon treaty is still a very sore spot for the Dutch electorate. Left or right doesn’t matter. EU adherents are just as mad as EU opponents about the playing of that nifty little trick. Yes, also EU adherents. There are some left, and they are embarrassed by the utter lack of respect for democracy the EU showed back then.

Supposing the EU would do it, it would add a lot of support to the anti-EU camp. Not just the PVV in Holland, but everywhere. What our PM and the EU will do is play for time. Continue as nothing had happened, but pretend they are ‘rethinking’ the treaty. While at the same time effectuate that very same treaty as if nothing has happened.

The PVV supported the referendum, but from a distance. A wise decision. Had they jumped on it, it would have caused the referendum to fail. Lots of people would not have voted (invalidating the referendum) or voted yes, simply to spite the PVV. The PVV is the biggest party by far in the country, but also the most controversial.

The interior minister, Ronald Plasterk, already announced he is going to look at the referendum law more closely. He doesn’t want something like this to happen ever again. It must truly represent the democracy we live in. You can assume some serious changes, such as 25,000 signatures instead of 10,000 to start with, 600,000 signatures within three weeks, rather than 300,000 in six weeks to follow up, that sort of thing. All in the name of democracy, for democracy is a great good that cannot be an idle toy for the people. Especially if it really works, and certainly not when we of the political establishment are losing our comfy positions.

To finish this essay, wallow in the irony of it: EU adherents like this one claim the referendum was not democratic, as only 32% turned out. Thus, 68% supported the EU by not showing up. (Official EU elections normally get a turn out rate of 20-30%; that, however, is perfectly valid and democratic.)

This referendum may not sink the RMS EU, but it sure made a big gash in it.

— H. Numan

26 thoughts on “The Dutch Jack-in-the-Box

  1. I sure hope that “big gash” is below the water line.

    My deep gratitude for your explanation. You are an acerbic, witty and knowledgeable reporter of the machinations of Dutch politics. I wish the PVV were putting out this kind of material.

    We at GoV are very much in your debt. As would be any English-speaking Dutch who wandered by.

    • Seconded. None of the English-language MSM coverage of this has been anything like as illuminating.

    • I agree Dymphna Numan did a great story but he left out the juiciest part.
      Six weeks to collect at least 300,000 signatures is rather cutting it close if you think paper, ink and snailmail. Not to say next to impossible.
      But the techies at GeenPeil came up with a rather novel aproach.
      An online petition form including a graphic module to make your signature on-screen with your mouse and upload it. Easy peasy.
      Wow, the government never saw that one coming!

      Is such a signature legal you may wonder, yes it is.
      The law only states you have to sign but not how you to sign.
      The law does not state you have to use a goose feather and a piece of parchement or a pen and paper.
      Yes it is perfecly legal.

  2. Very good article. Many thanks.I truly hope Geert Wilders becomes President of the Netherlands in 2016.If not the Netherlands will become a failed state. Rutte is a complete disaster .

    • Shelagh,

      I’m not trying to be in any way offensive to you, but the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, not a republic, so it doesn’t have a President. The Queen (or King) is Head of State and the Prime Minister is the head of government. Like the UK and Denmark. Geert Wilders for Prime Minister! Go PVV!

  3. Not sure if that actually counts as democracy, but it sounds like 20% of the Dutch electorate has managed to save the normal people of the EU vast sums of money.

    • It is democracy at work because voting is non-compulsory, therefore only those who care about the issue cast a vote.

  4. Thank you so much for this. The wickedness of these EU snakes knows no bounds. I hope plenty of people in the UK are reading this prior to our referendum. Good luck to our brothers and sisters in Holland.

    • Thanks LG! I wish you and all our allies in the UK a EU free future! We will pressure the Dutch government to have a in/out EU question ourselves. We keep pressuring Mark Rutte (and his government) to make sure he listens to the Dutch people. We said NO to this silly EU-> Ukraine treaty. We said NO to every letter in that document. We consider it toiletpaper. The Ukrainian warmongering government can go to hell.

      Good luck when you go out and vote in favor of the UK in june!

      • I would be interested to know what Oleg at The People’s Cube thinks of this Ukraine treaty. As an immigrant from Ukraine he is intimately familiar with and passionate about its fate at the hands of the Russians.

        For the EU, making the Russian bear mad could well interfere with energy sources coming from the USSR Russia.

        Here is Oleg’s site, full of soviet humor. It’s a kind of mordant “wit of resolve” not to give in to the relentless assault on our liberties. See this one, “The European Cultural Suicide Awards”…three guesses who wins the medal:

      • We are doing our best here to vote Leave – manning the stalls at weekends to explain the reasons for Leaving the EU and getting our sovereignty back, amongst other methods. Only when we succeed in doing this legally will we have the clout to address the ‘problems’ (for want of a better word) that being in this dictatorship has brought us.

        Best wishes to all who believe in Freedom

  5. The Dutch government does have a problem now. Dutch referendum law states: the government can- after a NO from the voters- only retract this ” treaty” with Ukraine and it has to retract it asap. That’s what the law says.

    Juncker (the chief EU dictator) knows this. That’s why dictator in chief Juncker said: a Dutch no to this treaty will end in a continental crisis….

    So despite the advice the Obama junta gave me to vote yes I say: put your ” advice” in a place somewhere in Kenia, mr Obama.

  6. Why inflict scum like Obama and his disgusting criminality on the poor people of Kenya? I think [Obama] should shove his opinion where he wears that carrot… in the location serviced by the helio-proctologist…

    • Bdsm: I can sympathize with your fury re the most incompetent president we’ve had in office since…well, perhaps the most harmful ever.

      He has had help from NATO and the UN in ruining MENA and making the whole area dangerous and unstable.

      *We now have large areas that are stateless and anarchic. If this were a normal world, he’d be on trial for what he and Hillary did to Libya.
      *His “treaty” with Iran has created a whirlwind of Shi’ite terror funded by monies that had been frozen and kept that way through a number of previous administrations.
      *Meanwhile we import Sunni Muslims by the carload (see Refugee Resettlement Watch re the tens of thousands of Syrians our State Dept is importing asap. )
      *His foreign policy seems to consist of drone attacks here and there in Syria, Yemen, etc. Or sudden trips to the UK to lecture its citizens on the need to vote to stay in the EU.

      We are safest when the man is on vacation or playing golf. Now I hear he plans on staying in Washington after the election bec one of his daughters has to finish high school there. As if we couldn’t see through that ruse? He plans to run a kind of rump government-in-exile…what other president has ever hung around after his term is up?

  7. I used to make fun of those wooden shoes, but now they’re looking to me like a really really good idea after all. Maybe someone should start mass producing them with some sort of anti-eu logo on them.

  8. That would be a nice idea. What about a plastic (or foam) clog with ‘boot the EU out of my country!’ on it?

  9. Congratulations to GeenStijl/GeenPeil for their success in forcing this referendum and in winning it! Best wishes to the Dutch people in seizing more power from their government.

  10. I worked at a polling station. We had close on 700 votes. 2/3 was no. 9 invalid from which 2 coloured the box instead of the dot, 2 were blank. Most heard comment: They have to be taught a lesson!

  11. How fortunate GoV readers are to have Mr Numan writing here so well and so wittily on a subject one wouldn’t even learn about if one relied only on the MSM!

    What on earth do the EU mandarins think will be gained by throwing 190 billions euros at the Ukraine (I love the way such people spend taxpayers’ money) apart from antagonizing Russia? And what exactly is the point of antagonizing Russia? Does the EU want Russia to invade the Ukraine? It will, by proxy or directly, and nobody will do anything meaningful about it. Great statesmanship! Does the EU want Russia to cut off the natural gas and oil supplies? Russia could just cut off the natural gas for a single week, okay, fortnight, during winter and Europe would be plunged into mayhem, chaos, immense human suffering and economic loss. Brilliant strategy!

    • Of course, the money would have been stolen by the corrupt Ukrainian rulers.

      It is really amazing what corruption can do to a country. In 1991, when Ukraine acceded to independence, it was one of the richest and best developed Soviet republics. It had a strong and diversified industry, it had great agriculture (thanks to fertile soil and good climate) – Ukraine was the breadbasket of the USSR, it had lots of health resorts on the seaside and in the Carpathian mountains. Kiev University was an important centre of science and learning (perhaps not globally, but certainly within the USSR). And the population of Ukraine was 52 million.

      Over the years of independence, Ukraine was transformed from a breadbasket into a basket case. The economy is in ruins, the education is reduced to nationalist indoctrination, the population decreased from 52 million in 1991 to 45 million in 2013, and how much it has decreased since then nobody knows, but the figure must be impressive – not so much because of deaths related to war and political violence, but rather due to the exodus of refugees and lower birthrate/higher death rate due to the dramatic fall of living standards.

      Ukraine is now the poorest country in Europe (poorer than Moldova, Albania or Bulgaria) and one of the poorest post-Soviet republics.

      This nightmarish situation has been caused by several factors, but the greatest by far is the endemic corruption which the two revolutions (2004 and 2014) have made only worse.

  12. Soros has been involved in European matters for a long time:

    He is rabidly anti-Russian and has been involved in the “Colour Revolutions” including the Ukraine, via his Open Society Institute.

    He is also in lock step with the UN and has been on advisory panels looking at global carbon taxation measures.

    He helps fund the Center For American Progress, founded by Obama adviser John Podesta.

    • It is funny that the article calls Soros ‘a Hungarian’. He is a member of the global elite and he doesn’t care two hoots about the fate of Hungary.

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