Before today’s referendum in the Netherlands, I watched the documentary “Winter on Fire” by Evgeny Afineevsky that was nominated for an Oscar to remind myself of the courage, determination and sacrifice showed by Ukraine’s youth and general population to be part of Europe and free from oligarchic and autocratic rule. Today, after learning the outcome of the referendum, I thought how those who were active in the Maidan revolution must feel insulted and disappointed by the magnitude of the No vote in the Netherlands.
What really happened in Holland?
First of all, the participation was extremely low: only 32%. The referendum is only of a consultative nature and the government would not have to take it into account at all if participation had been below 30%. Second, those who wanted to vote No mobilized while the others stayed home in the hope that the participation rate would be very low. There was very little mobilization on the Yes side. That was probably a big mistake for which Dutch politicians will have to do some soul-searching. The 61% who voted No are thus not representative of Dutch voters at large but are a biased selection.
Who was openly in favor of the No?
Obviously Geert Wilders, the extreme right nationalist, and the people around him. He is mainly anti-immigration, is a strong enemy of Europe’s migration policy and wants the EU destroyed to go back to some form of Dutch nationalism. Incidentally, he shares extreme-right views with Vladimir Putin, but it would be wrong to claim that his friendship with Putin was the main reason for his opposition. Second, you have leftists who are against the EU and free trade. Overall, the No was very strongly a protest vote against the EU. Does that mean that the No vote had nothing to do with Ukraine? That is mostly true, but not entirely. Roughly a third of the No votes really had to do with Ukraine. Europeans cannot understand why Ukraine cannot get rid of its widespread corruption and its system of oligarchs. Pro-Russian propaganda in the Netherlands kept hammering about corruption in Ukraine. Even if only a third of the votes were really related to Ukraine, that is a third too much, and that might have made all the difference. Ukrainian politicians and members of civil society must stop blaming others, take their responsibility and think urgently how they can together change their governance, get rid of the corruption and the corrupt insiders, and prepare themselves seriously to become truly part of Europe. The first step is to think collectively and constructively how to change the governance of the country.
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