The Dutch have voted ‘no’ in a referendum on the EU’s treaty with Ukraine, with 32% of the electorate taking part, according to an exit poll by broadcaster Nos.
The referendum turnout has to beat the 30% mark for the results to have any legal weight and the Nos poll has a 3% margin of error. The vote is considered to be a test of Dutch public opinion on the EU.
Of those who did vote, 64% voted against the treaty and 36% were for. Opinion polls had consistently forecast a ‘no’ vote. The Nos said their poll has a 5% margin of error in terms of the actual results.
A more definitive prognosis of the result is expected by 22.00, when many rural votes will have been counted.
The referendum is purely advisory and more than 30% have to vote for the results to have any weight. Then the government will be forced to take the results into account when deciding whether or not to ratify the treaty.
During the day, it was touch and go as to whether the target would be met, in the big cities in particular.
Revelations that the backers of the referendum are uninterested in Ukraine and saw the vote as a way to stimulate anti-EU sentiment among the Dutch had led to growing calls for a boycott.
Ahead of the vote, ministers refused to say what they will do if a majority vote ‘no’. However, a majority of political parties said the government must accept the results of the referendum if more than 30% of voters have their say.
RTL news commentator Frits Wester said ahead of the vote that if the 30% target is reached, the government will have to refuse to ratify the treaty.
‘Opposition parties who support the treaty have also said the government will have to accept the results,’ he said. ‘Together with the opponents of the treaty, such as the SP and PVV, they have a majority in the upper house of parliament.’
Thierry Baudet of the Forum voor Democratie, which was one of the initiators of the referendum, said the results cannot be ignored. ‘This is the start of a discussion about a different EU,’ he said.
More to follow
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