Government Formation in the Netherlands

  • R. B. Andeweg
  • Th. van der Tak
  • K. Dittrich

Abstract

In parliamentary multi-party systems in which no party acquires a majority on its own, the most usual way to govern is by coalition. Dutch politics is characterised by such a coalition imperative, and hence the interregnums during which these coalition-governments are forged — such as the record 207 days required for the formation of the Van Agt-coalition in 1977 — are often moments of great political importance. In the first place, contrary to the situation in a two-party system, the Dutch electorate cannot express its disgruntlement with past policies succinctly by voting the incumbents out and the opposition in. Instead, the election outcome normally leaves several options open for the politicians to choose from during the cabinet-formation interregnum. In the second place, two-party electoral contests gauge precisely the political situation of the moment, leaving no doubt as to who is in power. In the Dutch multi-party system, however, the cabinet-formation serves as the instrument by which the recent political power relationships are interpreted. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the cabinet formation is a policy instrument. In a multi-party system there is no majority-party platform that becomes a government programme instantly following election day1. In Holland long negotiations are necessary during which detailed compromises are painstakingly hammered out in order to create a single policy statement out of several party platforms. Once agreement has been reached it is virtually impossible to make amendments without risking a rift in the coalition. Thus, in the words of former Catholic leader Romme, ‘Parliament can influence government policy only before, not during the “ride”’2.

Select Bibliography

English language texts

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Dutch language texts

  1. R.B. Andeweg, K. Dittrich, and Th. van der Tak, Kabinetsformatie 1977, Leiden, 1978.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. B. Andeweg
  • Th. van der Tak
  • K. Dittrich

There are no affiliations available

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