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Amsterdam, 6th of April 2016

“Nor yes nor no, we vote compassion”

Since April 1 2015 the Dutch law on the citizen initiative to propose an advisory referendum is in force. An advisory referendum gives the citizen a voice in the political debate between elections. The result of an advisory referendum is not binding. However, in the democratic process it can be an effective measure to enforce the public debate on political issues.
Is the debate on the association agreement with The Ukraine a debate on content? Clearly many media report on the topic and inform us about the content with arguments in favour or against this Treaty. However, will the outcome of the referendum lead to representation of the people?
First, the association agreement has already been signed by the (chosen) representatives of The Netherlands. Second, The Netherlands is only one of the 28 EU-countries, it will be a political difficulty to withdraw. The initiators of the referendum were very much aware of these political difficulties in the EU context and even admitted recently that this initiative is for them not about the content of the issue: the peoples of The Ukraine and The Netherlands, it is about causing tension between The Netherlands and the EU to cause The Netherlands to step outside the EU.
It seems obvious that the governing coalition encourages the voter to vote yes, otherwise the consequences will be political turmoil on both a national and supranational level. It also makes sense that political parties in opposition thankfully use this opportunity to communicate their opinion about the political issue and encourage the voter to vote in accordance of their political position. However, since the Treaty has already been signed it seems to be a bit of a sham.
Simply said, this referendum is a very bad example of referenda in the democratic process, because the question is the wrong question.
In conclusion, The Flag of Compassion offers you a tool to participate in the democratic process supporting the concept of referenda in general and supporting the right to vote in a democratic society. This referendum is not about the content it is about the process. Based on the content of the debate one might even want to be compassionate to both sides. In this specific case voting ‘compassion’ will make the vote content wise invalid, but it will as well make the process of participation visible.

Renee Hartog







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