Slowly I’m getting the hang of this place. I’d better be careful, before I know it I’m going to like it here.
In the Netherlands we’re coming close to our election date. September 12 is the day we will have to vote in a new government. It won’t be easy this time … with the financial crisis in fool bloom no one seems to really know what to do. And when the so-called experts don’t have a clue what are we supposed to think?
As Dutch politics are a bit different from the American way … here’s a quick lesson :)
In the Netherlands the directly elected House of Representatives and indirectly elected Senate together constitute the legislative assembly or parliament. The House of Representatives is the more powerful of the two. This is where government coalitions are formed and collapse, and where ministers must come to defend their policies. No minister or government can survive a vote of no confidence in the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives keeps the government under scrutiny. They have the right of amendment, meaning that If a majority of the members of the House want to change the wording of draft legislation, they have the power to do so; they have the right of interpellation, an emergency debate calling a minister to account for some decision; they have the right to initiate legislation if they feel that the government is failing to do so and they have the right of inquiry by appointing a special parliamentary commission to conduct an in-depth investigation of some particular aspect of government policy.
The upper house or Senate has fewer rights than the House of Representatives. They meet only one day a week to re-examine legislative proposals passed by the House of Representatives and they can only accept or reject a bill in its entirety.
The 150 seats in the House of Representatives are allocated on the basis of an ‘electoral quota’: the total number of votes cast divided by the number of seats available (150). The number of votes cast for each party is divided by the electoral quota and the result determines the number of seats initially allocated to that party.
In the Netherlands a government always consists of two or more parties, a coalition. The process of forming a new coalition government begins on the day after the general election.
The Queen asks the leaders of the parliamentary parties and a series of advisers whom she can best invite to form a new government, given the outcome of the election. It may be quite clear which combination of parties will have the majority of seats in the newly elected House of Representatives. Two or more parties may have announced their intention to form a coalition in the run-up to the election and have gained a majority on that basis. Generally, however, the formation of a government is an extremely complex business that takes many weeks.
In practice, the party that has won the most votes will take the lead in forming a coalition and will usually provide the “formateur” (usually the future Prime Minister).
The aim is a coalition government that has the support of a majority of members of the House of Representatives and has reached prior agreement on its main policies. The process of forming a coalition is complete once the formateur has gained the agreement of the parties concerned to both a written coalition agreement and a list of candidate ministers. The ministers are then sworn in and the Prime Minister makes a formal policy statement to the House of Representatives.