Monday 05 December 2022

MPs back a binding referendum but there is still a long way to go

There is majority support in parliament for the introduction of referendums which would be binding on the government, but there is still a long way to go before they become a reality.

The draft legislation, drawn up by the ruling Labour party together with D66 and GroenLinks, was backed on Wednesday by a majority of MPs.

However, because the plan involves changing the constitution, the bill must be approved in a second vote by the next government and given a two-thirds majority. This means final approval is still years away.


Both the ruling VVD and the opposition Christian Democrats oppose the plan which would allow the population at large to call a halt to government plans. They say a binding referendum would undermine parliament itself.

‘We have agreed that parliament gets a mandate from voters to make choices,’ VVD parliamentarian Joost Taverne is quoted as saying by Nos television. ‘If voters are unhappy, they can show that in the next election by voting for a different party.’

Last month parliament voted in favour of legislation to allow ‘advisory referendums’ on controversial topics, if supporters can gather 40,000 signatures. The results of those votes would not be binding on government.

And earlier this month, it emerged the necessary 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on the lower house of parliament to debate the need for a referendum.

The process, known as a citizens’ initiative, will force parliament to debate holding a referendum on any amendments to EU treaties.

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