The Netherlands: Another Country Heard From

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By all accounts there are plenty of Americans who have decided not to vote at all in next month's presidential election — and lots of others who wish they did not feel that they have to. Across the Atlantic, however, there is a band of Dutchmen who would like nothing better than to help pick the next President of the U.S. Since they cannot, they have formed a group called Aktie (for Action) Precedent to try to influence U.S. votes.

At the heart of their effort is an IBM-supervised mock election sampling the presidential choices (including Senator Eugene McCarthy) of 4,000 presumably representative Hollanders. Says Hendrik Jan Diekerhof, 58, a retired Dutch army chaplain who runs Aktie: "The actual voting electorate in the U.S. is no more than 1½% of the world population. That 1½% decides for us in matters of war and peace, racial relations and the fight against poverty. The U.S. President meddles in our affairs. We should meddle in his."

Aktie got its start early last summer, and has since attracted the support of Dutch religious, labor and political groups of the center and non-Communist left. Diekerhof himself is a mem ber of the Dutch Labor Party executive, and active in the New Left. He and other Aktie leaders have organized street theaters, panels and teach-ins in hired halls all over The Netherlands during the past few weeks. Last week in Driebergen, near Utrecht, one listener wondered why Aktie was not making similar efforts with the Soviet Union. Diekerhof answered: "We do not know how to influence the Kremlin. We have always been against what goes on there, and Czechoslovakia shows how right we are. But we are also against what is happening now on the other side. There we can raise our voice, so we do."

Diekerhof and most of Aktie are critical of the outgoing Administration's Viet Nam policies. To support the movement, Aktie has sold more than 30,000 copies of a 55-page booklet called The White House-to-House Plan, which takes positions akin to those of Senator McCarthy and denounces Viet Nam as a "dirty war." The booklet's back page is a multiple-choice questionnaire for mailing to the New York Times, and most of those who have sent it in share Aktie's views. Diekerhof insists, however, that Aktie is not anti-American. "The McCarthyites are our friends," he says. "They represent the other America to us."