Senators back retroactive referendums to scrap legislation

Congratulations for SP leader Lilian Marijnissen after the vote. Photo: Philip Nijhuis ANP

The senate on Tuesday voted in favour of legislation that will introduce retroactive referendums in the Netherlands with the support of the pro-farming BBB, now the biggest party in the upper house, proving crucial.

In total 45 senators voted for the plan, including the 16 BBB members, and 22 were against.

However, the vote is just the latest in a long process to get the legislation into the statute books because it involves a change in the constitution.

This means the legislation must again be debated by both houses of parliament, who must also vote in favour by a two-thirds majority – a process that could take years.

Renske Leijten, the SP parliamentarian who was one of the drivers behind the legislation, welcomed Tuesday’s vote. “Dutch democracy must be better and stronger,” she said. Allowing the public to have its say on government decisions is a first step toward this, she said.

Much will depend on the make-up of the new second chamber after November’s general election but the two major newcomers – the BBB and Pieter Omtzigt’s NSC – both support the initiative.

Opponents say introducing referendums could lead to increased polarisation in society and will undermine the role of parliament.

As yet the plan does not include actual figures for how many people should turn out to vote and how many should vote for or against legislation.  The SP wants to look at this once the concept has been approved in principle.

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