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An introduction to the Dutch political system.

by Frank Wed Jun 15th, 2005 at 06:22:15 PM EST

This is meant to be a layman's introduction to Dutch politics. It will give a brief description of the constitutional basis and the global workings of the parliamentary system.

A constitutional monarchy.

Dutch democracy in its current form came into existence with the constitution of 1848, which forced the king (Willem II) to give up most of the powers of a monarchy, and made the Kingdom of the Netherlands into a "constitutional monarchy", where the monarch is mainly just a figurehead.

The king (the official term used in the constitution, even though all monarchs since 1890 have been female; I will use it throughout) is officially part of the government, but plays no role whatsoever in policymaking, although (s)he is briefed on the deliberations and decisions of the government. Furthermore, the prime minister and his team of ministers bear the responsibility for the king's actions.

The two main processes in Dutch democracy where the king plays a role are signing bills into law, which is expected to be a rubberstamp. The other one is the appointment of people who deal with the negotiations towards a new coalition government. More on that later.

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