10:07 Apr. 7, 2016
Roughly 64 percent voted 'No' and 36 percent said 'Yes', according to the initial exit poll
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said on Wednesday (April 6) the ratification of a treaty between the European Union and Ukraine cannot proceed as planned because it looked like a vast majority of voters rejected the agreement in a non-binding referendum, Reuters reports.
In a rebuke for the government, which campaigned in favour of the EU-Ukraine association agreement, roughly 64 percent voted 'No' and 36 percent said 'Yes', according to the initial exit poll.
Speaking before the official turnout was announced, Koenders said: "When we look at preliminary outcome right now it looks like majority of the people have voted against the association agreement, this is important political fact - it means that the ratification can not proceed as was expected before, so we have to take a step by step approach."
"We have now to talk within the cabinet, with the parliament, with our European partners, also with the Ukraine, to see what the consequences of this decision might be," we added.
The outcome of the referendum was too close to call, with early tallies indicating that a 30 percent turnout, required for it to be valid, was only marginally met.
The pollster Ipsos put total turnout at 32 percent in a revised exit poll after an initial survey showed turnout at 29 per cent. The margin of error was 3 percent.
Dutch Socialist Harry van Bommel said the Dutch government should go back to Brussels to re-negotiate the treaty.
"Two out of three people in the Netherlands do not want this agreement and therefore I think, when it is valid, when the voter turnout is high enough, the Dutch government should break up the ratification process and should go back to Brussels and make sure that there is a regular, straight agreement with the Ukraine, not a political agreement," Harry van Bommel said.
The vote, launched by anti-EU forces, is seen as test of the strength of eurosceptics on the continent just three months before Britain votes on whether to stay in the European Union.
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Although it is non-binding, it could be considered as an advisory referendum by the government if turnout reaches 30 percent. Otherwise it could be deemed null and void and need not be taken into consideration by the government.