Blunder or deviousness ?

continued from the former entry of April 4

The turnout of 32% at the April 6 2016 Dutch Referendum on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement does not seem convincing. The 61% No vote seems impressive over the 38% Yes vote and 1% blanks, but the low turnout gives it little weight. (PM. The electorate are 13 million voters. Turnout was 4.2 million. For the treaty were 1.6 million and against the treaty were 2.5 million.)

This advisory referendum is labelled “valid” because it passed the ceiling of 30%, but the margin is so low that Mark Rutte and his government might feel excused to still ratify the treaty anyhow.

It would take only 12% to switch the No majority into a Yes majority.

Potentially, the No voters were most motivated to turn up, and the Yes voters potentially stayed at home because: (a) the referendum was advisory only, and they have reason to believe that the government would ratify the treaty anyway, (b) the referendum would be invalid when the ceiling of 30% turnout would not be reached, (c) they might believe that they were the real majority so that the outcome would be Yes anyway. Perhaps a 12% higher turnout would only have come from Yes voters.

Thus the EU might blame Mark Rutte and his government for not having tried hard enough to increase the turnout that might have caused that switch in outcome.

However, the earlier poll by Maurice the Hond suggests that a full turnout would show 53% No. We can find this figure by weighing the views of the polled votes per party with the current polled seats per party. Indeed, De Hond also concludes that the No vote would never fall below 50%. However, it is hazy what a full turnout would be. There hardly ever is 100%. Let us take the 75% turnout of the last general elections in 2012.

Assuming proportional change between these two data points {.32, .61} and {.75, .53} gives us the following sloping line that drops to 50% at 90% turnout.

Referendum result at 32% and potential at 75%

Referendum result at 32% and potential at 75%

Conclusions are:

  • With the {.75, .53} poll data point included, the referendum result is more impressive than it at first seems. Apparently the Yes vote indeed had a losing uphill battle.
  • Mark Rutte and his goverment should have tried harder to inform the electorate about the pro’s and con’s of the treaty, if they really thought that more information would have resulted in both a higher turnout and a switch to more Yes votes.
  • Mark Rutte and his goverment might not have put in this effort, since the referendum was only advisory and might not have reached the 30% ceiling.

On the sight of it, Mark Rutte and his government have blundered.

It may also be plain old Dutch deviousness: with a ploy to play into Putin’s paranoia, and a scheme to prevent a casus belli. Remember the movie Being there“.

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