The Dutch Government

The Netherlands has what is called a ‘monarchical government’, which is made up of the King and his ministers. In 1848 it was decided that only the ministers, and not the King himself, would be responsible for acts of government. This means that the King, the Queen and their princesses cannot make any public statements without first consulting the Prime Minister.

The number of ministers within a cabinet varies, for several of reasons. Sometimes a new post is introduced that is considered sufficiently important to warrant its own minister, so a new one is appointed. Equally, additional ministers might be assigned to ensure that the coalition partners feel proportionately represented in Parliament.

The Dutch Parliament

The Netherlands has a representative democracy and a proportional representation system. Its Parliament (Staten Generaal) is made up of two chambers: the Upper House (Eerste Kamer), whose 75 members are elected by the members of the States-Provincial, and the Lower House (Tweede Kamer, or Second Chamber), whose 150 members are elected directly by the people.

Laws passed by parliament, and Royal Decrees, are signed by both the reigning monarch and the minister in question. This gives the King some authority as the Head of State, but simultaneously divides responsibility over the law between him and the minister.

The Netherlands also has ‘Water Boards’, which are responsible for flood control and water resources management

Dutch Political Parties

There are ten sizeable parties in the Netherlands, that have been around for some time. Traditionally, the largest of these are:

  • The PvdA (Labor Party): a social democratic party that has its roots in the trade union movement.
  • The CDA (Christian Democrat Party): a merger of three confessional parties that bases its ideas in religious principles.
  • The VVD (Liberal party).

However, in the most recent election, some additional parties rose in popularity:

  • The PVV (Party for Freedom).
  • D66: a progressive liberal party.

Side Note


  • Anyone who wants to vote in the Netherlands must be 18 years of age or older.
  • If you are an EU citizen and a resident of a particular municipality, you can vote in municipal elections on the day the candidates are nominated.
  • If you live in a ‘watership’, and are a legal resident of the Netherlands, it is possible to vote for the ‘Water Boards’.
  • To vote for the European Parliament, you must be an EU citizen and a resident of the Netherlands. You may not vote in the same election in your home country, or you may be disqualified from voting in both countries.
  • As a Non-EU citizen, you can vote in municipal elections if you have been a legal resident of the Netherlands for a continuous period of at least five years.
  • Only Dutch nationals may vote in elections for the Lower House of Parliament and the Provincial States.
  • As a member of the consular or diplomatic staff, neither you, nor your spouse/partner or children, are allowed to vote in the Netherlands.

The Dutch Provincial States

There are 12 Provinces in the Netherlands. Each have their own government, which consists of three bodies:

  • The States-Provincial (Provinciale Staten)
  • The Provincial Executive (Gedeputeerde Staten)
  • King’s Commissioner (Commissaris van de Koning).

Municipal Councils

Every four years, the inhabitants of Dutch cities and towns vote for their municipal council. The smallest councils have 9 members, the largest 45. The municipal councils are in charge of: social services, health care, traffic, public schooling, housing, and much more.

Useful links
Access to the websites of the Dutch Government Departments and Ministries here:

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