Wednesday, June 1, 2005

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The Dutch say nee but not non

The Dutch were more emphatic than the French in saying no to the EU constitution -- but their reasons for saying no were not precisely the same. Oh, there were some surface similarities -- Emma Thomasson and Paul Gallagher explain for Reuters:

The Netherlands emphatically rejected the European Union constitution in a referendum on Wednesday, an exit poll showed, deepening a crisis in the bloc and potentially dooming a treaty already spurned by France.

Interview/NSS projected the "No" camp had won 63 percent of votes based on an exit poll to 37 percent for the "Yes" camp with voter turnout at an estimated 62 percent -- well above the 39 percent that voted in European Parliament elections in 2004.

The resounding "No," even stronger than nearly 55 percent against the treaty in France on Sunday, is the latest sign of Dutch anger with the political elite since the 2002 murder of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn. Unease was further stoked by the killing last year of a filmmaker critical of Islam.

This rationale strikes me as different from the French fear of Turkey, which seemed predicated on both economic and cultural fears. In the Dutch case, I think the assassinations show it to be more of a direct concern with the threat to the Dutch commitment to liberal values (in both the classical and modern sense).

Marlise Simons of the New York Times provides more motivation behind the Dutch decision:

Among the main complaints, reflected in opinion polls, is that the Dutch feel pushed around by the big countries and that the union's heavy bureaucracy lacks transparency and democracy and is growing too fast. They resent that they are already the union's largest net per capita contributor without being the richest member, and that the new constitution would lessen their voting power.

The Dutch were furious when, after seriously tightening their belts in the last two years to respect European Union budget rules, France and Germany ignored those same rules. More recently they were irritated when Italy and Greece admitted that they had provided the union with false budget information.

I'm more sympathetic to motivations behind the Dutch 'no' than the motivations behind the French 'non.'

If anyone can find a link to the actual exit poll results, post them in the comments.

I do wonder if this is another part of the master plot to prevent the euro from ffurther appreciation against the dollar.

UPDATE: This site has the official vote count. So does trhis one. Another bleg -- does anyone know why Utrecht is such an outlier for the yes vote? My limited knowledge about Utrecht ends at 1713.

As for the Netherlands, Dutch blogger Arjan Dasselaar asks a simultaneously provocative but obvious question:

If 85 percent of Parliament wants to support a constitution that 63 percent of the constituency rejects, it seems obvious that our representatives in the Second Chamber (our Lower House/House of Representatives) no longer represent us.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Max Boot has an excellent analysis of the EU in the Los Angeles Times. The paragraph that must vex those in Brussels:

The European Union provides a convenient punching bag. In Britain, people hate the EU because it's too socialist; in France because it's too capitalist. In Eastern Europe, they're upset that the EU isn't doing more to facilitate labor mobility; in Western Europe, where the low-wage, if largely mythical, "Polish plumber" is a dreaded figure, they think it's already done too much.

David Adesnik also has an excellent analysis at Oxblog.

posted by Dan on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM


According to Dutch teletext service after counting 99.7% of the votes: Yes 38.4% and No 61.6% [Turnout: 62.8%]

posted by: Sjoerd on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Hi Daniel,

I have the exit poll results plus initial comments of Prime Minister Balkenende on my blog

Blogger seems to be having some difficulties. My fellow Dutch blogger Arjan Dasselaar has the latest official results on his site Zacht Ei.

posted by: sered on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

My feeling is that the anger in NL is more of an enabler for this outcome, but not the primary reason people voted against the proposal (to clarify, the options in NL were for/against/abstain, not yes/no).

That is, it was not a revenge against the political elite for the events the Reuters article described, but those events probably made people less trustful of politicians and more activist, and prone to not believe every promise.

One thing not mentioned in either article was the way both sides campaigned. Aside from a few small non-influential parties (Greens, small christian parties, democrats to my opinion) most parties used demagogy a lot. An example of one that backfired was the TV-commercial by the neoliberals that used holocaust, Srebrenica and 311 imagery to get people to vote for the constitution. Accidents like this made people more likely (and rightfully so) to not trust campaigners, and may have lured some yes-voters into the against camp.

posted by: Frank Quist (NL) on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

The Dutch blogger is on to something. 2005 is looking more and more like 1968.

Illegitimacy isn't limited to just the Dutch elite. It's hard to see how France's No voters will not see Chirac's appointment of a haughty, pompous ass like Villepin as anything but a slap in the face. Unless Villepin caves and offers blue-collar Frenchmen some massive givewaways, it won't be long before the French are staging massive demonstrations against their own illegitimate regime.

posted by: thibaud on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Unless Villepin caves and offers blue-collar Frenchmen some massive givewaways, it won't be long before the French are staging massive demonstrations against their own illegitimate regime.

The only time the French seem to stage massive demonstrations is to oppose more free market policies :-).

I'm sure if one were to poll the American people, there would be many topics on which the opinions of the political elite diverged widely from the majority of the people. Even for the Iraq war, support has declined to the point that a majority now oppose it. For off shore outsourcing, which Dan supports, I would guess the number opposed would be in the 70% range, while the majority of politicos seem not to oppose it.

If the French government is illegitimate, what does that say about Blair, who got a scant 36% of the vote countrywide. That was a direct vote on Blair, not on just one topic. Or what does that say about Bush's first term in office, when he got a minority of the votes ?

None of which is meant as a defense of joining the EU or of the French government, I'm just pointing out how people are very selective in labelling governments illegit.

posted by: Marsh on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Yeppers. Clinton never cracked 50% and the American people disagreed with him on a lot of things, but his administration wasn't regard, by and large, as illegitimate.

In most mature representative democracies, disagreement between the reps and the represented on various individual issues is not seen as a sign of illegitimacy but as a sign of the internal differences in the polity.

Illegitimacy is when you can't get rid of the elected government (can you say Canada?) and it doesn't, in an overall sense, any longer represent the polity (Can you say Cuba? Or China? or N Korea? Is France currently more like Cuba, China, or N Korea, or is it more like the US or UK, in the above sense?)

posted by: JorgXMcKie on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Utrecht is a uni town, an pretty much just a uni town, hence the yes vote. Very inexactly, Utrecht is to the Netherlands what Austin is to Texas.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

I can tell you the Dutch are scared cocoaless of Croats.

The Turk thing is just a ruse...

posted by: madawaskan on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

"Is France currently more like Cuba, China, or N Korea, or is it more like the US or UK, in the above sense?)"

Well.. Villipin IS Unelected...

posted by: Mike on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

To see how incredulous and silly Arjan Dasselaars statement is you'll have to know a little about Dutch politics. But to give just a simple counter argument -

If a new parliament were elected according to current polls it would still have been about 85% in support.

And it couldn't be much different, as the negotiations for the constitution, and acceptance of the result were done with the consensus of all the major political parties.

So only the smaller parties, left, right and center, could be campaigning against. And they did.

And those smaller parties undoubtedly will profit a bit in the short term. But then they are not likely to end up in any government, so they don't have to fix the problems that this no vote has caused.

posted by: Dutch on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]


The Dutch have said 'Nee', not 'no' or 'non' as you correctly point out. Rhymes with 'Yea', but no where close in meaning, particularly when spoken by the Dutch ;)

posted by: Jon on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

What "problems" the no vote has caused?

The no vote has revealed that the opinion of Dutch people and their government servants (who think they are masters) differ greatly with regard to the EU.

posted by: Rob Read on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

(who think they are masters)

No, parliament is elected, and according to the polls those who were for the constitution would be elected again.

So this nonsense about masters and not representative is rather disingenious.

posted by: Dutch on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

Dutch, whatever else might be going on, it is reasonable to expect that the elected government respect the wishes of the people who put them into office, is it not?

It is NOT nonsense to draw attention to the fact that the government is choosing a different course than the voters.

posted by: Bostonian on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

As one who follows Dutch life and politics on a daily basis, I have come to the conclusion that the Dutch Nee vote is very much a protest vote. Protest against the right-of-center Balkenende government, protest against the political Euro elite who sit in their plush glass houses and dictate their (minute) rules and regulations down to the grassroots of european life . Some dutch politicians accused their fellow citizens of not being adequately informed of the contents of the proposed constitution. No wonder when that document contains OVER 500 Pages! How much more minute can one get? The vote is a protest against the way the constitution legitimizes the way the French and Germans call the shots in Europe at the expennse of the smaller countries. Ans yes, there is an element of xenophobia, which has crept into the dutch psyche since the assassination of Van Gogh and other assorted problems caused, or perceived to be caused, by the minorities. And last, but not least: with the proposed
constitution the Europeans in general may finally begin to realize that the idea of a United States of Europe will become a reality! A reality they may not be ready to embrace.

posted by: Jos Knippenberg on 06.01.05 at 04:30 PM [permalink]

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