Having been asked by AFOE to write a couple of posts for them in the coming weeks I am both honoured and horrified and apologize in advance for occasionally butchering the English language. A very short introduction: I am a Dutch translator now living in France after 30 odd years of residence in Belgium. I am totally incapable of producing fine scholarly essays but I can do my part of the vox populi pretty well? I hope.
To warm up I offer you some background relevant to the Dutch referendum before the official results start rolling in. First some figures, taken from a Eurostat news report (pdf) that was released today.
Dutch unemployment, while remaining well below the European average of 8,9%, has risen from 4.6% to 5%. By comparison, Poland has 17% unemployment and Ireland 4.2%. Eurostat also mentions that The Netherlands registered the highest relative increase in unemployment rates among the member states together with Portugal (6.5% to 7.2%) and Luxemburg (4.2% to 4.6%). Unemployment among young people in The Netherlands, while fairly high at 9.2%, is still modest compared to the EU average rate of 19%.
The political parties in the Netherlands have declared they will accept the outcome of the consultative referendum. The results can therefore be considered binding. The Christian Democrats (CDA ? Christian Democratic Appeal) still require a turnout of at least 30% for them to accept the result but they revised downwards an earlier required percentage of 60%*.
The English language website of the Dutch House of Representatives offers an overview of its current composition. I include this informative link for those who do not follow Dutch politics closely.
The opinion polls (on May31st). The latest one by Dutch polling guru Maurice de Hond show 38% in favour of and 55% against the European constitutional treaty with a possible turnout of 50%. The TNS Nipo poll gave similar results: 34% Ja, 55% Nee and 11% Do Not Know. Their figures without the Do Not Knows: 38% Ja ? 62% Nee.
Highly educated people are inclined to vote Yes and all the less-educated groups are expected to vote massively No. Main themes in the No camp so far have been the trademarked Polish Plumber, regrets about the euro (notably the undervaluation by 10% of the Dutch guilder at the changeover to the euro), disenchantment with Dutch politics and the current government, the trademarked Blame-it-on-Brussels meme, Turkey, animal rights (not mentioned in constitutional treaty), Dutch sovereignty, the difficulty of the text of the constitutional treaty, the undemocratic nature of the EU and its institutions (not the will of the people), Europe goes too fast, etc.
Also, a certain amount of fear-mongering coming from the Yes camp backfired heavily. In a television campaign the VVD tried to invoke the spectres of the Holocaust and Srebrenica in order to spook the Dutch people into voting Ja. The VVD has withdrawn the spot but plenty of damage was done.
*Alert reader Sierra correctly pointed out to me in comments that this last phrase is bad English. CDA required 60% of the voters to say either Yes or NO. This percentage they revised downwards to 55%. The 30% turnout requirement still stands but has been rendered obsolete by current developments – at 04.00 pm voter turnout was already at 31%.