SP wants foreign observers for constitution referendum

19 January 2005

SP wants foreign observers for constitution referendum

The SP has strongly criticised the unequal division of resources allocated to the “yes” and “no” campaigns in the coming referendum on the European constitution. SP Senator Ronald van Raak has no expectation of an honest campaign for the vote, which is set to take place this spring, and has demanded the presence of international observers. Tonight in the Eerste Kamer (First Chamber) as the Dutch Senate is known, he will ask minister De Graaf if he agrees that the possibility of such a presence should be looked into.

"Ronald According to Senator Van Raak: “In contrast to an election in which political parties are pitted against each other, the referendum represents a contest between interest groups. In relation to the European constitution, which amongst other things is in its own words designed to promote “free and unhindered competition”, there is a major involvement of large commercial interests. Yet no rules exist limiting sponsorship of the ’yes’ and ’no’ campaigns.” In addition, the cabinet itself will be heavily involved, as minister De Graaf revealed earlier this evening in the Senate.

The referendum is expected to cost between 25 and 50 million euros. A million is reserved in total for the “yes” and “no” campaigns, but it remains unclear whether this money will be honestly divided. This is to be decided by a referendum commission, which has not yet been put together. Van Raak notes that “a sum of a million euros for a campaign aimed at ten million people is nowhere near enough. It gives each side five cents per voter in order to present its views. Moreover, most of this money will go to organisations arranging debates, leaving still less for the actual campaigns. For the ’no’ campaign, which has the support of the SP, hardly any money will be left. In a mature democracy resources should be equally divided between supporters and opponents. In many recent elections foreign observers gave been invited in order to ensure that the vote if freely and fairly conducted. It seems to me that it would be a good idea if this referendum also benefited from this kind of impartial supervision.”

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