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Political death and survival in the Netherlands: Explaining resignations of individual cabinet members 1946–2010

Abstract

Resignation by individual cabinet ministers is a major political event. Little is known, however, about the incidence, the patterns and the causes of ministerial resignations. This article works towards a political survival model of individual (junior and senior) ministers in the Netherlands, a country characterized by proportional representation and coalition governments. It does so on the basis of data for all 719 cabinet members serving between 1946 and 2010. It first establishes the turnover rate of individual cabinet members. On average, 15.0 per cent of all ministers step down individually before the end of their term. A total of 5.3 per cent resigns for political reasons, such as an internal conflict within the cabinet or losing the confidence of the party or parliament. With regard to political resignations, the Balkenende-era was the most turbulent of Dutch post-war political history. We then tried to explain the resignation hazard for individual ministers on the basis of recent comparative research. The analysis shows that previous experience in parliament makes the largest difference. Ministers lacking such experience are currently 51 per cent less likely to survive in office.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    These can be found at www.parlement.com.

  2. 2.

    As listed in the Royal Decree (Koninklijk Besluit) that carried the contraseign of the prime minister.

  3. 3.

    In the case of sudden, politically motivated resignations, the official date of the resignation often will be a few days after the factual resignation. According to Dutch constitutional practice, the resignation is not accepted by the Queen until a successor is appointed, in order to prevent a vacuum in the system of ministerial responsibility. Therefore, in most cases the formal moment of resignation coincides with the appointment of a successor. In some cases, for example, when it takes more time to find a successor, one of the other cabinet members is appointed as minister ad interim. These ad interim appointments were not listed as appointments and resignations.

  4. 4.

    This too was based on the information provided by the PDC. In some cases, when the information was ambiguous, we consulted additional sources, such as newspaper articles in NRC Handelsblad.

  5. 5.

    Also available online via www.parlando.sdu.nl and www.statengeneraaldigitaal.nl.

  6. 6.

    Between 1972 and 1983, the Dutch constitution did not allow members of demissionary cabinets to also take a seat in parliament.

  7. 7.

    Ed van Thijn, minister of the Interior, who also had been involved in the IRT-affair, was forced to resigned on the same day as Hirsch Ballin. However, he had been in office for a few months only.

  8. 8.

    Several cabinets were formed as interim-cabinets after the fall of a previous government, in preparation of new elections. For those cabinets, none of the factions in parliament has an electoral interest in keeping ministers in office per se. All such cases were coded as ‘not necessary for a parliamentary majority’.

  9. 9.

    See Dewan and Myatt (2007) for a theoretical justification of ‘two strikes and out’.

  10. 10.

    Again, we did not consider significance because our data cover the full population of Dutch ministers.

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Correspondence to Gijs Jan Brandsma.

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Bovens, M., Brandsma, G. & Thesingh, D. Political death and survival in the Netherlands: Explaining resignations of individual cabinet members 1946–2010. Acta Polit 50, 127–150 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1057/ap.2014.1

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Keywords

  • cabinet government
  • ministers
  • accountability
  • duration
  • Dutch politics