The Netherlands: Parties Between Power and Principle

  • Rudy B. Andeweg


At first sight, the relationship between Dutch governments and their supporting parties during the post-World War II period is characterized by a great many constants. The institutional context in which parties and government interact has not changed: throughout this period the Dutch political system has been a constitutional monarchy, equipped with a bicameral parliament and with probably the most proportional electoral system in the democratic world. It was and still is a highly centralized political system, in the sense that local and regional governments enjoy very little autonomy, while also being fragmented in two other ways. Policy-making is fragmented because more or less neo-corporatist networks of interest groups, quangos and advisory councils, specialized agencies or departmental officials, as well as specialized MPs and even ministers, assume a highly autonomous position. Because policy-making of this type crosses party lines and divides the government, we shall not dwell on this otherwise important source of fragmentation of the Dutch political system in this analysis of the relationship between governments and parties in the governing majority. The second and equally constant source of fragmentation is the party system. On average, more than 21 parties have contested post-war parliamentary elections, and more than 10 have been represented in the Second Chamber, the Dutch Parliament’s most important house.


Disability Benefit Party Leader Constitutional Reform Governing Party Governing Coalition 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1996

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  • Rudy B. Andeweg

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