May 9, 2019 | Story | No Comments
The decision to rerun a local mayoral election in Istanbul has sparked scathing criticism in Brussels — ironically, from none other than the EU’s Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt.
Tweeting about the move, which was branded a “coup” by a Turkish opposition newspaper, Verhofstadt said it highlighted that Turkey was “drifting towards a dictatorship” and offered “full support to the Turkish people protesting for their democratic rights.” Along with the verbal slap on the wrist, he said that under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership, talks on Turkey joining the EU are “impossible.”
The irony in Verhofstadt’s outrage, is that the EU itself has a long history of either totally ignoring referendum votes — or just making people vote again until the ‘correct’ result is achieved. But that, of course, does not make the EU a dictatorship. It’s still a “bastion of hope, freedom, prosperity & stability” (as per another recent Verhofstadt tweet). Twitter users wasted no time in pointing out the “irony” and “hypocrisy.”
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“How dare [Erdogan] use EU tactics,” one irritated Verhofstadt follower responded, with another saying that the UK itself was currently “battling for its democracy” — a reference to EU officials (including Verhofstadt) who have frequently voiced their personal opposition to Brexit and the ‘Remain’ factions in Britain who have been calling for a re-run of the 2016 referendum.
While there may be at least some merit to the idea of Brexit referendum re-run after two years of failed negotiations and with more accurate information now available to British voters, the idea of simply re-doing EU-related votes is hardly a one-off.
Maybe Verhofstadt should take a trip down memory lane.
France voted ‘no’ to accepting a proposed ‘EU Constitution’ by 54.9 percent in 2005, but the outcome was ignored. The same thing happened in the Netherlands, which rejected it by 61.5 percent. The ‘EU Constitution’ was later repackaged into the Lisbon Treaty and presented to the French parliament where it was adopted, without being put to the people this time (much easier!).
This new Lisbon Treaty was then rejected by Irish voters in 2008, once again sending Brussels into meltdown mode, as the pact needed to be ratified by all member states before taking effect. So, of course, they made some tweaks and asked people to vote again — and got the ‘right’ result the next time. It wasn’t the first time Ireland was asked to re-vote after giving the wrong answer, either. The country also rejected the Nice Treaty in 2001 and accepted it in a second vote a year later.
Greece voted overwhelmingly to reject severe austerity measures desired by the EU in 2015 in exchange for a multi-billion euro bailout. Not long after, under pressure from Brussels, the country’s government agreed to implement even harsher methods — totally ignoring the will of the Greek people.
But way before all that in 1992, Danes, displeased with plans for a single currency, common European defense policies and for joint rules on crime and immigration, rejected the Maastricht Treaty — and were asked to vote again.
Ironically, many European voters voted ‘no’ to these treaties because they were worried that the EU would be turned into some kind of undemocratic superstate where the wills of individual countries and people would be ignored. Being forced to vote until you give the ‘right’ answer doesn’t exactly put those worries to bed. It’s part of the reason why the British voted for Brexit in the first place.
READ MORE: After Catalan crackdown, EU will look hypocritical preaching about democracy – Irish MEP
Then there’s Catalonia, where pro-independence leaders were thrown in jail for their role in holding an independence referendum in 2017. One tweeter scolded Verhofstadt and other EU leaders for believing that they have some “moral authority” over Turkey while abuse of pro-independence forces in Catalonia is ignored. “Our leaders are still in prison because they let citizens vote,” they wrote.
With a history like that, maybe it’s a bit rich for Verhofstadt to be going around lamenting the lack of democracy in other countries.
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