As Dutch vote in referendum, poll shows older people back new internet tapping laws

Enough MPs support to plan to scrap the crime of insulting the king

Dutch nationals can today vote in what is likely to be the last referendum for some time - whether or not to give far-reaching powers to the two security services to gather information, particularly via phone and internet taps. The law is due to come into effect in May and has already been passed by both houses of parliament. Nevertheless, over 400,000 people signed a petition calling for a referendum, hence today's vote. The referendum is advisory and comes a month after the government agreed to abolish the principle of advisory referendums altogether. However, home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren has already promised to ‘take the result seriously’. An opinion poll published by current affairs show EenVandaag on Tuesday suggests that a majority of voters are likely to vote in favour of the legislation. Some 53% of people who said they are likely to vote, now plan to vote yes. But the result is divided sharply along age lines, with 60% of people over the age of 55 planning to vote in favour, compared with 41% of the under-35s. Media coverage Most of the Dutch papers have now published lengthy articles examining the pros and cons of the new legislation. Wednesday's referendum was initiated by five students from Amsterdam, whose four main issues with the new law are examined by Trouw. The students say the law will allow the state to listen in on entire neighbourhoods, hence the name ‘dragnet law’. But, says Trouw, the law only allows the ‘tapping, taping and listening in’ of people who are a danger to national security and the home affairs minister will have to approve the taps. Data belonging to anyone caught up inadvertently must be removed as quickly as possible, Trouw says, adding that the home affairs minister considers the law contains enough guarantees to prevent indiscriminate tapping. Hacking The students are also worried about the power of the intelligence services to hack any device people may have in their homes, including smart fridges, watches or cars. This will be allowed under the new law, Trouw says, adding the secret services can even hack the devices via another person’s computer. But again, the services need permission from the minister. Another worry the students have is that the legislation will allow the secret services to set up their own DNA bank and their powers to compare any DNA found at 'locations of interest' with samples in their own DNA bank. DNA profiles will be kept for five years, which can be stretched to 30 with the permission of the minister. Ministers do concede that DNA from people who are no threat to national security might end up in this database and have said ‘a note must be made of this’, Trouw said. The final problem the students have with the law is that raw data,  gleaned from a wide variety of data bases can be shared with foreign intelligence services. Again Trouw points out that sharing data is subject to a number of checks and balances, such as the protection of human rights and the protection of the data itself. Again, the minister must give permission. Nevertheless, critics point out, this does mean that data could end up in unfriendly foreign hands via third parties, Guarantees The Parool  also looked at these issues but can only reiterate that while the new law can pose a threat to people’s privacy there are, on paper, a number of guarantees that will prevent this from happening. The Volkskrant interviewed cyber expert Huib Modderkolk. According to Modderkolk the increased powers of the intelligence services are not going to lead to a police state. ‘The most serious breach of privacy citizens have to contend is the continual scanning of car registration plates,' he said. 'Google keeps a track of your whereabouts, Albert Heijn knows which products we buy and the tax office links all sorts of databases,’ he told the paper. Modderkolk does not believe the large-scale tapping will be a problem but thinks hacking of specific targets will become more frequent. Terrorism The cyber expert also doubts that ‘great haystacks of information’ will help defeat terrorism. ‘French intelligence services have the most far-reaching powers in Europe and yet most attacks happened on French soil,' he said. ‘Digital information on its own will not prevent attacks. But if terrorists are using coded apps... it would limit the work of the intelligence services if they are not allowed to look at that,’ the paper quotes him as saying.  More >

Anti-Muslim campaign halts online poll

Enough MPs support to plan to scrap the crime of insulting the king   A contest to choose the Netherlands' best councillor has been suspended after shock blog GeenStijl urged its readers to vote against a candidate from a Muslim party. Rotterdam councillor Nourdin el Ouali, of the Nida pary, was one of two finalists in the online vote, against Christian Democrat Rick Brink from Hardenberg. Brink's vote surged after GeenStijl posted at the weekend that it was 'squeamish enough not to want to lose such a flimsy contest to the Muslims'. The extra 8000 votes crashed the site's server. Event organiser John Bijl, of the Pericles Institute, said the vote had been hijacked by 'identity politics'. 'I haven't read anything on GeenStijl saying why Nourdin isn't a good councillor and Rick is,' he said. The CDA also criticised the website's behaviour. 'We are not happy with the way these votes were gathered by pitting sections of the population against each other,' said a spokesman for Brink. Bijl said the winner would be announced on Tuesday evening, the day before the local elections, but the public vote would be combined with the decision of a jury.  More >

Local parties open to coalitions with PVV

Enough MPs support to plan to scrap the crime of insulting the king Several local parties have indicated that they will consider forming a coalition with the anti-immigration PVV after this week's elections, the Volkskrant reported on Monday. Geert Wilders's party is contesting seats on 30 councils, predominantly in places where it polled strongly in last year's Parliamentary election. Currently the party is active in just two municipalities, Almere and The Hague. Wilders has been a pariah in the Dutch parliament since uttering his 'fewer Moroccans' comments in the last round of local elections in 2014, which earned him a criminal conviction for inciting discrimination. Mark Rutte has ruled out any pact between his right-wing VVD party and the PVV until Wilders withdraws the remarks and the other major parties have taken a similar line. In Rucphen, Brabant, where the PVV took 39% of the vote last year, the local branch of the VVD says it has no objection to governing with Wilders. 'A lot of the features of their programme are in line with ours – I can certainly see common ground,' said lead candidate René Lazeroms. Local parties such as Top/Gemeentebelang in Terneuzen and Stadsbelang Utrecht have also said they will not rule out a deal with the PVV – though Cees Bos, chairman of Stadsbelang Utrecht, added: 'The PVV won't play any significant role in governing the city because the major parties will exclude the PVV.' Left-wing parties are less inclined to contemplate a joint venture with Wilders's party. Thijs Kroese, Labour leader in Purmerend, Noord-Holland, said: 'There is more chance of the North Sea catching fire, but we don't want to exclude them altogether, even if the PVV will have to change their stance on a lot of issues. It's in the interests of the people of Purmerend that we work together where it's feasible.' Meanwhile in The Hague, the local party's campaign has been hampered by reports of division and internal rows. The PVV has lost two of its seven seats on the council after members quit the party and is forecast to retain only three or four. Several sitting councillors have been replaced on the list of candidates, while other contenders have dropped out or been sidelined. Bas Houward, who quit less than a year after applying to stand as a councillor in protest against the 'migrants' cabinet', told NRC: 'I have seen inside the PVV's parlour and I've been shocked. I have seen racism, but mainly distrust. I often ask myself, what have I got myself into?'    More >

Local elections 2018: housing in Amsterdam

Enough MPs support to plan to scrap the crime of insulting the king Housing is by far the biggest issue facing Amsterdam city council over the next four years - given the fact the city's housing market is boiling over and the supply of affordable accommodation has virtually dried up. The housing shortage has led the Socialists, who currently control the city's housing portfolio, to say that Amsterdam houses should be for the Amsterdammers. Local media too blame the 'expat' for rising rents and the housing shortage. The situation has been made worse by the city's popularity as a tourist destination, and the rise of Airbnb and other rental platforms. Amsterdam has made strict rules with Airbnb about who can rent out their property and for how long, but in the city centre at least, tourism is also a major election issue. The beer bike has been banished, the horse-drawn carriages will disappear next year and on Thursday the national parliament voted in favour of plans to invest millions of euros to encourage holidaymakers to visit other places as well as the Dutch capital. Some 89,000 foreign nationals can vote for Amsterdam city council - and so far seven parties have gone public with website sections in English. The international vote could be crucial. Neck and neck An opinion poll by at the beginning of this week suggests the Liberal democratic party D66 will struggle to hold to its lead in Amsterdam and is embroiled in a neck and neck race with the left wing greens of GroenLinks. A poll suggests a similar situation among international voters. At the last local elections, D66 overtook the Labour party, which had been the biggest party in Amsterdam since 1946, and formed a three-party coalition with the VVD and the Socialists. The poll shows that D66, which has 14 seats, may see that shrink to nine, following the departure of prominent local members Jan Paternotte and Kajsa Ollongren to The Hague. By contrast, the left-wing greens GroenLinks, who are calling for car-free zones and action to reduce tourism, are poised to increase their share of the vote to nine seats, up from six at present. Initiative The party emerging as the biggest after next week's vote will take the initiative in forming a new coalition administration. And GroenLinks campaign leader Rutger Groot Wassink has already said his priority will be to form a left-leaning coalition. The poll sees a drop in support for the right wing VVD, who are set to take four seats, down from their current total of six. Its support appears to have been eaten away by newcomer Forum voor Democratie, which has been fighting a high profile campaign and may also win four seats. The poll also concludes that other newcomer Denk will win three seats while BIJ1, founded by tv presenter Sylvana Simons will win one. The results of the new poll have lead prime minister Mark Rutte, of the VVD, to warn that there is a serious risk of a left wing majority in Amsterdam. 'It is essential that we too are included in the new council executive,' he said. Current council executive:  D66, VVD, SP Current council make-up: D66 (14), PvdA (10), VVD (6), SP (6), GroenLinks (6), PvdD (1), CDA (1), Partij van de Ouderen (1) Total number of voters: 674,286 Number of international voters:  88,841 or 13.2% - equivalent to six seats on the city council 2018 local election information in English Amsterdam, key issues: housing, integration and jobs D66 manifesto summary GroenLinks manifesto summary VVD manifesto summary PvdA manifesto summary Partij voor de Dieren summary BIJ1 information in English Forum voor Democracy video Upcoming events for internationals March 15, election discussion evening at De Nieuwe Liefde March 19, pre-election party and debate with the main parties   More >

Emile Roemer is first SP mayor

Enough MPs support to plan to scrap the crime of insulting the king Emile Roemer, the former leader of the Socialist Party, has been appointed acting mayor of Heerlen. Roemer, who will be sworn in on Friday, is the first mayor from Socialist Party ranks  the Netherlands has had. He has been given the job because of his lengthy experience in politics and his close ties to the town, Limburg king's commissioner Theo Bovens said in a statement. The SP is the biggest party on Heerlen town council with 11 seats. Mayors in the Netherlands are technically crown appointees, based on recommendations by the council. Roemer left national politics in January after 11 years as an MP and almost eight years as SP leader.   More >