Opponents take narrow lead in wire-tap law referendum

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No image availableNL Times

With 80 percent of the votes in the referendum on whether or not to implement a new law for the Dutch intelligence and security services counted, opponents to the law are taking the lead. Of the counted votes, 49 percent were against the law, and 47 percent for. Around 4 percent of the votes were blank, the Volkskrant reports.

Around 53 percent of voters voted in the referendum, far above the 30 percent required for the referendum to be valid. 

These interim results clearly show that opponents were more motivated to cast their votes. In the 45 municipalities that did not have municipal elections on Wednesday due to earlier municipal redistribution elections, 30 percent of voters came to vote in the referendum and 57 percent of them voted against the law.

The results also show that resistance to the law is much higher than expected. Pre-referendum polls all showed that more people planned to vote for implementing the law than against. 

This new law - officially called the Intelligence and Security Law, but also referred to by opponents as the Big Data Law - gives the Netherlands' two intelligence and security services more power. The biggest change is that the AIVD and MIVD will be able to tap telephone and internet traffic on a large scale. The services will also be allowed to perform hacks more often, and on a larger range - where the services can now only hack a specific suspect, the new law allows them to reach the suspect by hacking the computer of a housemate, for example. The new law also gives the services the capability of storing DNA material for investigations. The expansion of powers is balanced with more supervision on the services.

If a majority of the voters voted against the law, parliament will be forced to re-examine and re-debate the law.  But the parliamentarians can choose to leave the law unchanged, as this is only an advisory referendum and the outcome is not binding. In the Ukraine referendum a majority voted against a trade agreement between the European Union and the Ukraine. The government compromised by adding an amendment to the agreement to address opponents' concerns. The same could happen here. 

This bill was controversial from its introduction. Civil rights organizations, the Council for the Judiciary, the Dutch Association for Journalists, the scientific council for government policy WRR and the Council of State all criticized the data mining law. Despite this, it passed relatively easily through the Tweede Kamer and Eerste Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament and the Dutch Senate.

The law is set to be implemented on May 1st. will be evaluated in two years' time, to make sure that citizens' privacy is sufficiently guaranteed, according to NOS. A lawsuit against the law is also currently in the works - opponents believe that certain parts of the law are in violation of human rights