Friday, May 13, 2005

There are many current and historical issues on which I have some sort of opinion. There are even more that I do not care or know enough about to form an opinion on them. As long as I can remember I never had any serious problem deciding which way to vote whenever I was asked or entitled to. Since I still have the Dutch nationality I am eligible to participate in the June 1st referendum on the new consitutional charter for the European Union. I made sure my father will be able to vote by proxy, but now I have a serious dilemma: should I ask him to vote in favor of or against the constitution? First of all, elections in the Netherlands ( and I suppose in other European countries as well ) are a celebration of democracy. We should be thankful for that, even though being heard and being listened to are not always the same. Just look at one of the official websites dealing with the referendum and you will see many links to different political parties, as well as to websites of both supporters and opponents of the EU consitution. Every organization and official body that wants us to vote in favor or against gets a chance to convince us, even though some accuse others of not being allowed or enabled to let their voices be heard loud enough. My personal problem with the referendum is that I agree with some arguments of both sides, and at the same time on both sides I find individuals, parties and organizations with whom I prefer to disagree. Not unlike what we witnessed during the US presidential elections, both the government ( which belatedly has started to try and convince the Dutch to vote "yes" ) and the most vocal opponents to the treaty attempt to use fear in order to persuade people of their being right. See for instance this article in today's IHT ( where you will find also some very legitimate reasons why we should support or oppose the treaty ). Although I do not see the EU as the frightening monstrosity that some politicians and activists would like us to believe it is ( I think the Union and some of its regulations made life in Europe easier and better in several ways, in particular for those who work, study and travel in more than one country within the EU ), I understand and somehow agree with those who claim that Europe harmed their national identity and sovereignty, two things that often are not taken seriously enough by officials and decisionmakers in Brussels and in each of the EU members' capitals.
Right now I really do not know what way I will ask my father to vote for me. I do not want to vote against the consitution ( because it does have some good points when it comes to international cooperation in the fields of research, the fight against crime and terror, foreign policy; it seems that the constitution will make it possible to streamline the EU bureaucracy, making it slightly less inefficient; I really do not want to be on the same political side with populists like Geert Wilders and the Socialist Party; at the website Referendumwijzer ( referendum indicator ) 72% of my opinions were in line with the constitution ) but I also am hesitant regarding voting in favor, especially after the Dutch prime minister and his minister of justice made references to Auschwitz, Jesus and Yugoslavia in their struggle to convince us to say 'yes'.
I ponder the possibility of abstaining, but that is a bit lame. Also, why going through all the trouble of getting registered if you intend to turn in a blank ballot paper? Besides, it would basically mean - according to most experts - casting a 'no' vote. Never before have I had such doubts when I was asked to vote. In the end, I think, I will probably follow the advice of the party for which I have voted in - as far as I am aware - all the elections that I participated in. When my father reads this he knows whether that means a 'yes' or a 'no'.

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