Mark Rutte wants to know all about you, but doesn’t want to listen to your views

15 February 2018

Mark Rutte wants to know all about you, but doesn’t want to listen to your views

What will Interior Minister Kajsa have seen when she looked in the mirror this morning? A politician belonging to centrist liberals D66 who has sold her soul to have her own ministry?  Or one of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's hench(wo)men, who wants to deprive citizens of a democratic right, without people being given any chance to have a say in the decision? In 1848, the first liberal premier Johan Rudolf Thorbecke introduced direct elections, while under a later liberal premier, Pieter Cort van der Linden, in 1917, we saw the introduction of universal manhood suffrage.  Today, however, liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte wants to abolish a democratic right, by putting an end to referenda. Rutte is not prepared to defend the measure himself in Parliament; the job will be left to his right-hand woman, Kajsa Ollongren. This is a dark day for democracy, a day on which citizens will be deprived of a democratic right. And why? What have people done wrong? We said 'no', in a referendum on the European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement. Just once, we said 'no' to our own government; against the interests of the multinationals and of the Europhiles in Brussels. Just once, we said ‘no’ on behalf of our own democracy, so we must now be punished. That's why an end must apparently be put to the referendum as quickly as possible.

The government says that the referendum “has not brought what was expected of it.” That's true enough, but this is mainly due to the actions of the government itself. In 2005 the Netherlands said 'no' to the European Constitution, but we got it all the same. In 2016 we again said no, in the Ukraine referendum, but despite this the government said 'yes'. Now the Prime Minister, along with politicians from the centre-right CDA, Christian Union, and D66, are saying that in the forthcoming referendum on the 'Sleepwet'  - a law governing the actions of the intelligence and security services which will entitle them to conduct mass monitoring of online communications, even those involving people under no suspicion – you can vote how you like, they simply won't take any notice of the result. The problem is not the referendum, but principally the high-handedness of these politicians. The consultative referendum  should be a step on the way to a binding, corrective referendum, but following the first 'no', D66, the centre-left Labour Party and Green Left, all of whom had supported the introduction of the referendum but also backed the European Constitution, couldn't figure out how to file away their own law where it would gather dust. D66 has now joined the liberals of the VVD, the centre-right CDA and the Christian Union in seeking to abolish the consultative referendum. They are so frightened that they don't want to allow you to express your views. Rutte said it was 'logical' that the government wants to abolish the referendum without holding a referendum on their proposal, because the government is against it. This is a form of reasoning which belongs in a dictatorship, not in a democracy.

According to Mark Rutte, the referendum is not compatible with our democracy, which gives the last word to Parliament. Yet almost all European countries hold referenda, with the only exceptions being Belgium and Bosnia-Herzegovina, a brief list which we will soon be rejoining. The voters elect the Parliament, the people who must represent them. In a referendum these same voters can advise and correct their MPs should they take a decision to which the people are opposed. This is the crowning of democracy, a crowning which this government wants rid of, not because the referendum doesn't do its job, but because it does it only too well, and not because it is damaging to democracy, but because it strengthens democracy. Because so many politicians are so afraid of the people's opinions. It's certainly no coincidence that the proposal to abolish the referendum has to be rushed through Parliament, even before the referendum on the Sleepwet is held alongside the local election of 21st March. You can already hear them saying, 'the referendum has been abolished, why should we take this Sleepwet referendum seriously?' Mark Rutte wants to know all about you, but he doesn’t want to listen to your views.

Today in Parliament I will make myself forcefully heard, but you can do that too, both now and on 21st March. If they won't listen to what we have to say, we must make them feel it. That certainly goes for the undemocratic attitude of Mark Rutte. By saying 'no' to the Sleepwet, you can also keep saying 'no' on behalf of our democracy.

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