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In the Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act referendum, 2018, preliminary results indicate 47.3% of votes in favour and 48.8% of votes in opposition, with the remaining votes blank and a turnout of 51.4%. The referendum is valid in recommending to overturn the law if turnout exceeds 30% and a majority votes in opposition. How is this majority counted? Does it need to be >50%, or is exceeding the votes in favour sufficient?

  • I am not sure if this is a matter of translation, but "majority" means more than 50%. More than any other, in politics, is referred to as "plurality" in American English and, as I just found out, "relative majority" in British English. – grovkin Mar 25 '18 at 5:38
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    @grovkin It is a matter of translation. We don't have a distinction between the words majority and plurality in Dutch, as far as I'm aware. – gerrit Mar 25 '18 at 11:10
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The Kiesraad has issued a statement via Twitter:

De Wet raadgevend referendum laat zich niet expliciet uit over vraag wanneer sprake is van een meerderheid. Volgens Kiesraad is sprake van meerderheid tegen de wet als, bij voldoende opkomst, percentage kiezers met geldige stem tegen hoger is dan percentage geldige stemmen vóór.

Which means:

The Law advisory referendum does not explicitly clarify when there is a majority. According to the Kiesraad there is a majority against the law when, with sufficient turnout, the number of valid votes against is larger than the number of valid votes in favour.

So the answer to the question is: Yes, it is.

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You may find this as a useful, but not complete answer to your question:

Should this turnout threshold be reached and should a majority of voters reject the Act, two possibilities are open to the government. One possibility is to act in accordance with the results and propose a bill to repeal the Act. The other option is to propose a bill to have the Act nevertheless enter into force: For the results of an advisory referendum are not binding.

  • That doesn't answer my question. Is 49% vs. 48% a majority or not? – gerrit Mar 22 '18 at 18:12
  • 48.8% would constitute a majority. In the context of Dutch elections however, the government can pass a bill to have an act enter into force anyway. – WanderWillow Mar 22 '18 at 18:24
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    @gerrit: It appears so. The quorum (30%) was met and news agencies appear to be reporting on it as if null votes were ignored for the sake of determining which has the majority. But referendums in the Netherlands aren't binding anyway - the parliament can override them. – Denis de Bernardy Mar 22 '18 at 18:34
  • For the purposes of elections knowledge, a candidate receiving the most votes can be elected in some electorates, while in some countries this can instead require a majority, and there may be a form of run-off procedure. Referendums in the Netherlands are very much a gauge of public mood, in this case it is unlikely to change government opinion, as there is such a slim difference between no and yes. – WanderWillow Mar 22 '18 at 19:59

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