Dutch voters go to the polls today to vote in one of the country’s only major referendums in its 400 year history.
Voters were able to take part in the referendum on the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine from 7am this morning. The vote, rather than reflecting Dutch feelings towards a technical document as stated, is being interpreted as a vote on the country’s overall feelings about the European Union.
20:44 GMT – This live wire is now closed. Breitbart London has reported on the exit poll. All further updates will be in that article.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 6, 2016
20:38 GMT – Ipsos have updated their poll, now claiming 32 per cent turnout.
20:05 GMT – The Ipsos margin of error is 3 per cent. This could be a very long night in the Netherlands.
20:02 GMT – De Telegraaf reports: “According to the latest exit poll from Ipsos is 29 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. Of this 64% against have voted.”
20:01 GMT – Polling stations are closed. Awaiting exit poll.
19:48 GMT –MEP predicts turnout will pass 30 per cent and ‘No’ camp will win:
"We komen boven de 30 pct en het wordt een nipte overwinning voor het nee-kamp", voorspelt SP'er Van Bommel #referendum
— Inge Lengton (@IngeLengton) April 6, 2016
17:56 GMT – A modest line suddenly forms at Utrecht Central station:
— René Lukassen (@renelukassen) April 6, 2016
17:51 GMT – Geert Wilders is attempting to drum up support on Twitter as turnout still struggles to reach 30 per cent.
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) April 6, 2016
17:27 GMT – Turnout in the Hague is creeping up to 20.4 per cent with two-and-a-half hours to go.
Tussentijds opkomstpercentage referendum om 18 uur in gemeente Den Haag: 20,4. Meer info over het referendum: https://t.co/xXNTTVAMei
— Newsroom Den Haag (@Newsroom070) April 6, 2016
17:17 GMT – Political scientist Maarten Reijnders says calculates that final turnout will be 29.9 per cent, 0.1 per cent beneath the level needed to make the vote valid.
Opkomst Amsterdam 17.45: 13,7%. Gewogen verwachte opkomst grote steden: 27,5%. Verwacht landelijk: 29,9% pic.twitter.com/ESXGyh0niK
— Maarten Reijnders (@rohy) April 6, 2016
17:13 GMT – An exit poll will be published at 8pm UK time
16:53 GMT – Barely three hours left and Amsterdam turnout remains at just 13.7 per cent.
15:44 GMT – A political scientist at the University of Twente predicts over 35 per cent turn out:
Mijn verwachting o.b.v. tussenstanden in 21 gemeenten om gemiddeld 13.00 uur: opkomst referendum wordt ongeveer 35%. pic.twitter.com/ivEC9WLQSG
— Martin Rosema (@martinrosema) April 6, 2016
15:41 GMT – One polling clerk shows his frustration at the lack of voters:
— Michgelsen (@Michgelsen) April 6, 2016
14:54 GMT – Turnout is predicted to just scrape 30 per cent by the end of the day:
— Carl J. Königel (@CarlKonigel) April 6, 2016
14:46 GMT – A local Labour Party politician has tweeted that she will not be voting today, adding “even Hitler liked referendums”.
"Ook Hitler hield graag referenda" zegt Elly de Jong van PvdA Midden- Delfland. Zij heeft niks met het referendum: https://t.co/VkSyzh5zjP
— Tuinbouw Tessa (@TuinbouwTessa) April 6, 2016
14:34 GMT – The small island of Vlieland has become the first place in the Netherlands to report a turnout of over 30 per cent. Volkskrant says 35 per cent of the 1,000 islands have voted so far.
14:20 GMT – Turnout is still low in major cities across the country. By 3pm local time, 12.2 per cent had voted in Rotterdam, while 12.4 per cent of Hague voters had turned out by 2pm. Just 6.5 of Amsterdam had turned out by 1pm, while 7.5 per cent of voters in Utrecht had turned out by 11.30am.
14:01 GMT – This is the smallest polling station in the Netherlands, according to Reuters. It’s in someone’s living room. The owners believe they won’t get as high a turnout as general elections. Wim Westhoff said: “I expect 50 to 60 percent. Every now and then someone comes in. It is not crowded, but we’re great, we do not get bored. The coffee arrived a few extra people along.” The home of Wim and Elly Westhoff has been a polling station since 1948.
13:50 GMT – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Party for Freedom leader Geert Wilders cast their votes this morning:
13:46 GMT – There are concerns that the turnout will not reach the 30 per cent of the voting population required to validate the referendum. Either way, the vote is “non binding” however activists and experts have noted that it would be impossible for the government of Mark Rutte to ignore the outcome.
Original AFP story follows:
The Dutch began voting Wednesday on whether to back a key EU pact with Ukraine in a referendum triggered by grassroots eurosceptic groups and seen as a yardstick on ties with Brussels.
Polling stations opened across the country from early Wednesday, with a small trickle of voters queueing to cast their ballots in the non-binding popular vote on whether the Dutch approve closer ties with Kiev.
The outcome is being closely watched by both the West and Moscow, and a Dutch “No” to the two-year-old treaty with Kiev could pose a headache for the European Union.
“I think it’s good to have a referendum, to be able to say what we think of Brussels. It’s important,” one voter, who identified himself only as Bert, 49, told AFP after voting.
Opinion polls on the eve of the vote on the EU’s so-called Association Agreement with Ukraine gave the “No” vote a slight edge.
And after a slow-to-start, low-key campaign, many observers were watching to see if the 30-percent turnout of the 12.5 million eligible voters needed to ensure the vote is valid would be met.
One Ipsos poll said some 37 percent polled over recent days said they would vote against the deal, around 33 percent were in favour and the rest remained undecided.
– Kiev urges ‘yes’ vote –
The vote is also being anxiously watched in Ukraine, which has moved to knit closer ties with the West since the 2014 ouster of a Moscow-backed president who had rejected the cooperation deal.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko voiced confidence the Dutch people would support the pact, and warned against his country becoming a victim of what he called “an internal Dutch discussion about the future of the European Union”.
But in an early call, anti-immigrant far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders tweeted to supporters Wednesday: “Everyone vote today. And vote against!”
The referendum’s eurosceptic Dutch organisers have admitted the vote is essentially not about Ukraine, but a handy hook to push a broader anti-EU agenda and “give citizens more say in Brussels”.
It was triggered after organisers used new legislation allowing citizens to voice opinions on legislative decisions if they garner more than 300,000 signatures.
The Netherlands is now the only country in the 28-nation EU still to ratify the accord and the deal has been given the thumbs up by both the upper and lower houses of the Dutch parliament.
“I see the agreement with Ukraine a bit more like collateral damage” said Aaron Matta, senior researcher at The Hague Institute for Global Justice think-tank.
He warned of wider repercussions of a “No” vote win, for Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government — which currently holds the rotating EU presidency — and Kiev.
If there is a “No” vote, the Dutch government “will have to save face… having been placed in an awkward situation,” Matta told AFP.
“The Netherlands will perhaps have to find some way of opting out of the agreement,” he said.
– EU crisis? –
Both the Liberal Rutte and his junior Labour coalition partner have called for a vote in the agreement’s favour.
And European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has warned a “no” vote “could open the doors to a continental crisis”.
But the Dutch government has not done any active campaigning and has repeatedly said it will await the outcome before deciding its next steps.
Russia, which backs separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east, resents Kiev’s tilt towards the West and would relish a vote to prevent it from developing ties with Brussels.
And a “No” win could also be seen as a bellwether for Britain’s own June referendum on whether to leave the EU, dubbed a “Brexit.”
Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-EU UK Independence Party, said in Amsterdam on Monday that a vote against the pact “will send a big message to the British electorate that we are not alone in thinking something has fundamentally gone wrong in the direction of the European Union.”