This photo shows five Amsterdam university students, who recently started collecting voters’ signatures against a new law which attacks civil liberties by enormously increasing secret police powers to spy on citizens.
Today, the Dutch election authority has decided that there will be a referendum in which people can vote for or against that law on 21 March 2018; the day of the local elections.
There were over 417,000 signatures. The election authority found these were overwhelmingly valid signatures; far more than the 300,000 required by the Dutch law on consultative referendums.
These voters have signed to have this referendum against that new law giving secret services ‘Big Brother’ powers to spy on the Internet activities of all citizens, including the great majority of people not suspected of any crime.
The law also wants sharing of the results of that spying with foreign secret services. Like the NSA and the CIA in the USA; where Donald Trump wants more spying and more torture by secret police. Or like the ‘intelligence’ service in Rajoy‘s Spain, where over 800 people are injured for voting and people are jailed and threatened with thirty years of imprisonment for peacefully having different views on independence for Catalonia (different from pro-independence people in Scotland or Quebec, not jailed for free speech by the British or Canadian governments). After all, Mr Rajoy is an European Union and NATO ally of the Dutch government. Another NATO ally is Erdogan, dictator of Turkey. This new Dutch law opens the door for sharing results of spying on Dutch citizens with Erdogan‘s secret police. Another ally, though not a NATO or European Union member, is the head-chopping absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia.
These foreign secret police organisations will even get data which the Dutch secret services themselves have not analyzed yet.
Senior legal advisers of the Dutch government like the Raad van State are critical of the law. So are human rights organisations like Amnesty International.
There is a good chance that the Dutch electorate will reject this anti-privacy law; if one bases oneself on the two national referendums in the Netherlands so far.
On 1 June 2005, there was a referendum on the proposed European Union constitution. The referendum had been proposed by politicians supporting that European Union constitution, expecting they would win. The VVD right-wing pro-Big Business party campaigned in that referendum with TV propaganda claiming ridiculously that if people would vote No then mass murder in Auschwitz concentration camp would start again. However, 61.5% of voters voted No; especially not so rich voters.
Technically, the Dutch government and the European Union respected the Dutch No vote, and also the French No vote, against the European constitution. However, they replaced it with the Lisbon treaty, with only cosmetic changes. About that treaty, the voters of the Netherlands and all European Union countries except Ireland, were not given the right to vote. So, still disrespect for the voters.
On 6 April 2016, there was again a referendum in the Netherlands. This time on the proposed treaty between the European Union and Ukraine. This time, over 400,000 signatures had been collected by a committee which said they were neither for nor against the treaty. Like in 2005, practically the whole political and Big Business establishment campaigned for a Yes vote for the treaty. But, again, 61,1% of the people voted against.
The Dutch Mark Rutte government disrespected that vote while hypocritically claiming they did respect it.
If voters will vote No to the Big Brother law in March 2018, will politicians respect that then? Looking at how they disrespected the two earlier referendums, one cannot be over-optimistic. However, if people don’t vote or vote Yes to Big Brother, then civil liberties will 100% certainly be damaged.
The new Dutch government is a coalition of four parties, with only a one seat majority in parliament.
The most ‘liberal’ (in the United States sense) of the four parties in this right-wing coalition is D66. A party which voted against the Big Brother law when parliament discussed it. A party, founded in 1966, with as one of its main points to have decisive referendums. However, they are now one of four parties which have agreed to carry on with the Big Brother law and to abolish even consultative referendums. Kaisa Ollongren, the new Minister of the Interior, is a D66 member.
Ms Ollongren has said that she, though a D66 member, does not like referendums. She admitted that it is impossible to make the new Big Brother law effective on 1 January 2018, as the new government had planned. She wants to make it effective on 1 May; after the referendum about it.
Buma, the leader of the CDA, a right-wing party in the coalition, has said that the government should disregard the referendum vote if the electorate will vote against the Big Bother law. D66 leader Pechtold has said that was ‘not clever’ of Buma. But will Pechtold really strongly oppose the Buma policy in this, which is a move from democracy towards dictatorship? Or will defeating this anti-democratic Buma policy rather depend on a mass movement outside parliament?
The new coalition government plans to abolish consultative referendums. Will there be a referendum against the plans to abolish referendums?
No, says the Dutch government; to the indignation of the youth organisation of government coalition party D66.