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25 April 2005
AMSTERDAM — The European Union downplayed on Monday an internet poll indicating the Netherlands will reject its disputed constitution when the nation holds a referendum in June.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said the "no" vote is being fueled by protests over issues unrelated to the constitution.
"We hope that as the constitution referendums get closer, people will get more focused about what the referendum is about," news agency AFP quoted him saying.
Solana was also referring to the looming referendum in France. Like the Dutch, French voters are poised to reject the constitution, which requires ratification in all 25-member states.
The Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek (IPP) survey indicated that 58 percent of 15,000 Dutch people polled will vote against the EU constitution at the nation's 1 June referendum.
However, Foreign Minister Ben Bot also downplayed the results, saying he is confident of a "yes" vote, asserting that polls are giving a mixed picture of the electorate.
He was referring to recent government surveys which have indicated a slight majority in favour of the constitution.
Bot said the "no" vote is being fueled by opposition to government policy. He predicted the yes vote will increase as the publicity campaign kicks in.
The government has promised to wage a vigorous yes campaign in coming weeks to ensure a positive outcome.
Despite the fact the referendum is non-binding, a majority in the Dutch Parliament has indicated it will abide by its results if more than 30 percent of voters cast a ballot.
A Maurice de Hond poll also indicated on the weekend that 52 percent will vote against the constitution and that 32 percent of voters will participate in the plebiscite.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news
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