20 November 2023, by Emily Proctor

Just five years after scrapping the Advisory Referendum Act, some Dutch parliamentarians are looking to re-introduce referendums such as those seen in Switzerland

2015 law allowing for referendums scrapped just three years later

The law that previously allowed for national referendums in the Netherlands was introduced in 2015, but was scrapped by both the upper and lower houses just three years later. The law was scrapped after just one major vote – the 2016 referendum on closer ties between the EU and Ukraine – to which the Dutch public voted “no”.

With a turnout of 32,28 percent, the vote was over the minimum threshold of 30 percent participation and was therefore deemed valid, but the process received much criticism from politicians on all sides of the debate. 

Swiss political scientist Alice el-Wakil recently discussed the affair with Swiss media outlet SRF, and stated that the Netherlands suffered from a “lack of experience in organising referendum campaigns”, adding that there was “no quality debate” during the 2016 vote. 

Dutch politicians have already voted for a so-called binding corrective referendum

The Dutch senate has already approved the re-introduction of a binding corrective referendum, as did members of the Dutch parliament in April 2023. The introduction of the bill would mean that voters would have the power to reject laws that have already been passed. 

Though both houses have already agreed on the bill, a majority is needed in order to enact the law – and this can only be determined after the Dutch general election on November 22. Both chambers will then have to vote again given the new allocation of parliamentary seats. 

Interestingly, this proposal has received cross-party support from both the left and right sides of the political spectrum. The initiative itself was initially proposed by the SP, and has received support from the BBB and FVD as well. 

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