Dutch Electoral System

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary representative democracy in which the monarch has only ceremonial powers. The structure of parliament is bicameral including the lower House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal) which holds enhanced legislative power and the upper house, called the Senate (Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal). The Senate is composed of 75 members who are elected indirectly from the 12 provincial councils. Provincial councils are elected through popular vote every four years.

The electoral law was last updated in 2008 even though the Dutch elections have been carried out by proportional representation since 1918. The House of Representatives is composed of 150 members deriving from the 19 electoral districts and seats are apportioned proportionally according to the national vote. Political parties submit list of candidates or group of lists and may submit the same list for all districts. A party acquires one of the seats for every 1/150th or approximately 0,667% of the number of valid votes. The order of the candidates presented on the list determines which of them will be elected, unless a single candidate receives more that 25% of the number of vote needed for a single seat.

The Dutch electoral system is particularly proportional with a low threshold for the national parliament elections. In consequence, single parties fail to succeed absolute majority and coalition governments are formed often as a result of a prolonged process. In order to overcome obstacles and form the new Cabinet, the House of Representatives appoints initially an “informateur” to recommend alliances and afterwards a Cabinet “formateur” to supervise the negotiations and conclude the discussions. Most frequently the formateur is the intended Prime Minister. According to the Dutch Constitution, the Royal Decree, King or Queen, has to swear the new members of the government in order the Cabinet formation to be fulfilled.


Sources: The Dutch House of Representatives, European Election Database, Political Data Yearbook, Wikipedia.

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