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Dutch Vote on EU Constitution


Voters in the Netherlands are casting ballots Wednesday in the latest referendum on the European Union constitution.

Recent opinion polls indicate Dutch voters will follow France in rejecting it. The vote is not legally binding, but lawmakers say it will guide their decision if turnout is above 30%.

About seven hours after the polls opened, turnout stood at 24%, nine points higher than in last year's European Parliament vote.

Many Dutch voters say they fear a Europe-wide constitution will create social problems, cost jobs and permit easier immigration, further undermining the country's national identity.

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende Tuesday appealed for a "yes" vote, saying a rejection, as in France Sunday, would damage the Netherlands' reputation as a champion of European integration.

About 12 million Dutch are eligible to cast ballots. Preliminary results are expected Wednesday night.

Information for this report is provided by Reuters and AFP.

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