referendum victory against government, big money, and big media
Herman de Tollenaere
people have spoken clearly. I am very disappointed. "
In The Netherlands, on 1 June there was the
referendum on the proposed European Union constitution. With an even bigger
majority than in France, the majority voted no: 61,6%.
There were clear differences in the vote among different social classes.
In Rozendaal, one of the richest villages of The Netherlands, with many manor
style houses for rich people, and an electoral bulwark for the three party
Rightist government coalition, 62,7% voted Yes, contrary to national trends.
Among all local authority results, rich Rozendaal was the one with the biggest
Yes result. Consistent with the call of the Dutch big business association VNO/NCW
to vote yes. Its leader, at a meeting with 1500 business tycoons present,
claimed each and everyone present would vote Yes.
Second and third in Yes voting were similar rich villages: Bloemendaal with
60,6%; Heemstede with 57%. Rich villages like that are the bulwarks of
especially government party VVD (as hardline pro "free enterprise" as British
Tories, though more "secular").
On the other hand, in Pekela, a mainly workers' village with a history of strong
Leftism and strikes, 81,5% voted no, higher than the national average. In
communist bulwark Reiderland, 85% voted no.
Also, the constitution was apparently still more unpopular with younger than
with older people. One day before the official referendum, there was a national
"mock" election for secondary school students. 69,9% of students voted no.
Even in the pious Christian farmers' village where Prime Minister Balkenende,
main pro Yes campaigner, is from, Kapelle, 65,4% voted no. In Urk, a Christian
fishing village where the Prime Minister's Christian Democrat party usually gets
over 30% of the vote, 91,6% voted no.
Prime Minister Balkenende said:
However, he wanted other countries to continue to try to get a Yes vote for the
constitution. This is flogging a dead horse.
Harry van Bommel of the Socialist Party said the no vote should mean the end of
the neo-liberal economic policies of the European Union.
Many people say that now that the Dutch government lost the referendum, they
Against big odds
Similarly in many respects to the French vote, the Dutch No vote is basically a
grass roots victory against enormous odds.
Supporters of a Yes vote have spent thirty times as much money as No vote
Most of this being taxpayers' money by the pro constitution Rightist Balkenende
administration (allies of George W. Bush. According to pollsters, probably the
most unpopular government in Dutch history with now under 20% support).
Like in France, the majority of official leaders of political parties
represented in parliament supported a Yes vote.
The most important party in united opposition to the constitution is the
Socialist Party: third party of The Netherlands in membership size (over
44.000), but with only 8 seats in a parliament of 150.
Jan Marijnissen, the popular Socialist Party leader, became ill, so he could not
campaign. Another big handicap for the constitution opponents.
Also most media one sidedly propagated a Yes vote. They gave lots of space to
people like Arend-Jan Boekestijn, known for his Rush Limbaugh style propaganda
for the Iraq war because of these terrible
atomic bombs which Saddam Hussein supposedly had, and now much at ease with
constitutional proposals with mandatory higher military spending, but no similar
stipulation for working people's benefits. People like that got lots more media
space than critics.
In spite of these odds, like in France, opponents won.
As in France, most Social Democrat and Green voters voted No, contrary to their
party leaders. As in France, the less well off a voter is, the more likely she
or he is to vote no (in France, of blue collar voters, 80% voted no).
And the 70% no vote among Dutch students which I mentioned earlier would also
confirm the French result of young voters being more likely to vote no.
More people voted in the referendum than in the European elections in The
Netherlands last year: over 62%, while hardly over 30% voted at European
In the Dutch city of Leiden, anarchist and other No voters watched the results
together on a big TV screen, celebrating victory with bottles of champaign.
What voters said
Dutch TV 2 on 1 June interviewed people who went to vote in the
European constitution referendum.
One of them was an active member of the PvdA, sister partij of British Labour,
German SPD, etc. Though that party's leaders supported a yes vote, he would vote
He lived in Amersfoort city. There, there is a zoo. Dutch EU commissioner Ms
Kroes wanted to ban government subsidies to that zoo, as she thought, in the
spirit of the EU constitution, that, eg, zoos should be commercial businesses.
That, according to this PvdA activist, was an example of why one should be
critical of European Union policy.
Another voter said: The United States constitution starts with: We, the people
... However, this EU constitution is not for the people, but for big businessmen
and professional politicians.
Another voter was angry at government party VVD leader Van Aartsen. Van Aartsen
had said, when the No vote won in France, that linked No voters in The
Netherlands to French racist Le Pen.
That voter reacted: Well, is Mr Van Aartsen forgetting that in Italy, the
neo-fascists support the proposed constitution?
To daily NRC, even Johan de Feijter, 31 year old adviser to the European
Commission, said: I am voting against, as politicians use bad arguments to
persuade people to vote yes.