What’s in a name? Last Monday, a provincial department of the Dutch Socialist Party (SP) announced that Crimea would vote No in next week’s Dutch referendum on an EU Association Agreement with Ukraine.
Of course, the party was not referring to actual Crimea. Rather, it had polled inhabitants of De Krim, an eastern Dutch village that shares its name with the Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia two years ago.
The SP said it had interviewed 168 people – around 10 percent of the village’s electorate. Of those who had already made up their mind, 76 percent would vote No. However, a week before the Dutch electorate could voice its opinion in its first-ever citizens-enforced referendum, a government-commissioned national poll suggested that only half of voters had made up their mind, and they were split equally between Yes and No. But while the Yes side is relatively uniform in its motivations and arguments (the EU-Ukraine is said to be good for trade for both sides and good for human rights), the No side consists of a more motley crew. Who are they?
Three non-governmental groups are largely responsible for the 6 April referendum. The first one is GeenStijl, a popular blog, which used its online presence to help gather the 300,000 signatures required to trigger the non-binding referendum. It has used its clout to hijack online polls in the past and is known for its boorish writing style – the name means “no style”, or “no class”. The website is often critical of figures in authority, especially the EU.
During the campaign to collect the signatures, it advertised the gains as winning “a real national EU referendum”, rather than wanting to have a say on the specific deal with Ukraine. In an interview with Dutch news website Nu.nl, one of the website’s writers said they wanted the referendum “to for once be consulted about European decisions”.
GeenStijl had teamed up with two foundations, Burgercomite EU (Citizens’ committee EU) and Forum voor Democratie (Forum for Democracy). These had previously tried to persuade MPs to hold an in/out referendum on Dutch EU membership, and are critical of traditional democracy in which voters show up only once every four years to elect representatives. While the three groups use Ukraine-specific arguments in their campaigns, it’s clear they are really using the Ukraine deal as a means to vote about the EU.
Full Article: The Dutch rooting for a No in the Ukraine referendum.