What choice will the Netherlands make?

The Dutch on Wednesday turned out in force for a referendum in which they look set to join the French in rejecting the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2000/10/06/97.html ' target=_blank>European Union constitutional treaty, a result that would plunge the 25-nation bloc further into crisis.

By mid-afternoon 31 per cent of more than 12m eligible Dutch voters had cast their ballots, Dutch television reported, with most expected to say No to new rules drafted to govern the enlarged EU, of which &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/politics/2002/05/17/28870.html ' target=_blank>The Netherlands, like France, is a founding member.

The turnout was set to exceed the 39.1 per cent at last year's election for the European Parliament. That would mean the Dutch parliament, which called for the non-binding referendum, would abide by the outcome.

While an opinion poll late on Tuesday gave the government-backed Yes campaign the faintest hope that it might close the gap on treaty opponents, Labour and Green party politicians leafleting morning rush-hour commuters conceded it was too little, too late. The Interview-NSS survey for Dutch television showed Yes with 46 per cent to No's 54 per cent, on a turnout of 46 per cent. A poll on Monday had 60 per cent against the treaty, immediately after the French referendum, tells FT News.

Dutch voters today delivered their verdict on the proposed EU constitution, and polls indicated they would deepen the crisis over the future of the European Union by following France’s lead and rejecting the document.

Pollsters predicted that nearly 60% would say ”no” – a result that, following France’s resounding ”no” Sunday, would leave Europe’s leaders without a clear back-up plan for the charter, which needs approval from all 25 EU nations to take effect in late 2006.

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