PM: public gave clear signal, 'no is no'

1st June 2005, Comments 0 comments

1 June 2005, AMSTERDAM — As the repercussions of the Dutch 'no' vote reverberated across the nation and the continent, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the government will respect the referendum result.

1 June 2005

AMSTERDAM — As the repercussions of the Dutch 'no' vote reverberated across the nation and the continent, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said the government will respect the referendum result.

Some 40 minutes after exit polls indicated 63 percent of voters had convincingly rejected the constitution, Balkenende gave a televised press conference to accept the result. "It is a clear no. I am very disappointed," he said.

However, the Christian Democrat CDA leader said the high voter turnout (62 percent) and involved discussions over the future of Europe in recent weeks were a "victory".

Balkenende said Dutch voters had "given a clear, not to be misunderstood signal" and it was clear the government would respect that.

He said the Dutch public had shown its concerns over the tempo of change in Europe, the nation's high financial contribution to the EU and a loss of national sovereignty.

Balkenende said he will impress upon European leaders that the public's stance must be respected. Sources said he will be in contact with EU leaders on Wednesday night and with EC President Jose Manuel Barroso.

However, Balkenende said the process of ratification must continue in other countries. He also said the French 'non' and the Dutch 'nee' should be discussed at an EU summit on 16-17 June.

Meanwhile, the chairman of opposition party Labour PvdA, Ruud Koole, said the high voter turnout was a "celebration of democracy".

Koole admitted he would have preferred a different result, but said he accepted the wishes of the public.

"It is a very clear no. That gives us the task to enter a debate with voters over the direction we need to go with the European Union," he said.

Dutch voters had been tipped to reject the constitution, but the overwhelming defeat of the yes campaign surprised various observers. Polls heading into the referendum indicated 55 to 60 percent of voters would vote no.

The eyes of green-left GroenLinks leader Femke Halsema — who also campaigned in favour of the constitution — said it all as the exit polls were released at 9pm. She said the no campaign was assisted by the government's clumsiness.

A jubilant Socialist SP also said it had not expected such a large section of the public to vote no.

Independent right-wing MP Geert Wilders said he was "immensely proud" of the Dutch population. The large majority opposed to the constitution "showed the immense gulf between politics and society".

Wilders is planning to lodge a motion of no confidence against the Cabinet when the Dutch Parliament discusses the referendum's results on Thursday.

However, Balkenende has dismissed any talk of a government collapse or ministerial resignations.

[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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