Reclaim democracy: the elite don’t really know better

7 April 2016

Reclaim democracy: the elite don’t really know better

Foto: kruidhof

What a lot of severe criticisms were made, after all, about the referendum. What, once again, a great deal of scaremongering went on. The usual pundits, such as Trouw columnist Rob de Wijk, who saw the referendum as a danger to our democracy. But serious people too, like the vice-president of the Council of State Piet Hein Donner, who claimed that the referendum was in conflict with the autonomy of Members of Parliament. But you gave us, all the same, your advice.

By Ronald van Raak

Once again a warning

Almost two-thirds of the Netherlands said ‘no’ to a European treaty. Just as was the case in 2005, at the time of the referendum on the European Constitution. The turnout was on this occasion somewhat lower, but in line with the average turnout in elections for the European Parliament. This referendum is once again a warning. From a population which no longer recognises itself in its representatives. And one which has ever diminishing confidence in democracy. A ‘no’ does not mean ‘yes’.

In 2005 the people’s ‘no’ was not taken seriously. Following fresh negotiations Europe simply rumbled on. That greatly increased the people’s distrust of and aversion to Europe. The treaty with Ukraine must be ratified by every member state. The Netherlands was the only country in which the population was allowed to express its judgement, and we said ‘no’. With this, the treaty is dead and buried. The government is yet again saying that it wants to negotiate. This seems to be an attempt, just as in 2005, to make a ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.

Take the referendum seriously

In the future we will have to learn to take the referendum seriously. So – no more mayors who refuse to provide sufficient polling stations. Or politicians who call on people, first and foremost, not to vote. I also fail to understand why all those journalists and pundits felt the need continually to say that a referendum wouldn’t be serious. Because the population in general appears to have an opinion which differed from their own. At such a moment the elite shows itself to be a clique, which revels in, more than anything, the belief that it is right.

Reclaim democracy

In the past I thought that people in leading positions were in addition very intelligent. I have now come to learn that the elite certainly doesn’t always know better. Also, people responsible for the public good often allow themselves to be guided by misconceptions and prejudices – just like anyone else. The referendum is a fine means for the people to correct those who govern them. At the moment when they no longer recognise themselves in their representatives.

That’s not a danger, but a precondition for a well-functioning democracy.

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