The Dutch government is a parliamentary democracy, which according to the constitution of the Netherlands consists of the King (or Queen) as the head of state and the Council of Ministers.
Structure of the Dutch government
The basis of the structure of the Dutch government is the Council of Ministers that includes the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Cabinet ministers.While most ministers head government ministries, the government of the Netherlands may appoint ministers without portfolios. The monarch’s role is limited to the formation of government.
The Dutch Parliament, known as the Staten-Generaal der Nederlanden or the States-General of the Netherlands, consists of two houses:
- the Eerste Kamer (Senate)
- the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives)
The States-General meets in joint session normally once a year, at the opening of the parliamentary year, when the king gives his Speech from the Throne on Prince's Day. The rest of the time they meet separately. The houses of Parliament are at the Binnenhof in The Hague.
There are 75 seats in the Senate and 150 in the House of Representatives. Dutch elections are held every four years under a system of proportional representation.
The Dutch constitution
The basic structure of the government is set down in the Dutch Grondwet (Constitution), which also covers citizens’ rights and the Dutch government’s duties to citizens.
The Constitution is the Netherlands' most important state document and its highest law. It dates from 1814, when the monarchy was inaugurated. The current version of the Constitution dates from 1983.
The Constitution is, however, subordinate to the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which regulates the constitutional relationship between the different states of the Kingdom, i.e. the Netherlands, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba.
Other levels of Dutch government
There are three other levels of government in the Netherlands, governing the provinces, municipalities and the water.
Dutch provincial governments
Each of the Netherlands’ 12 provinces has its own regional government, with executive power in the hands of the King’s Commissioner (or governor) and the College of the Gedeuteerde Staten. The King’s Commissioner is appointed by Cabinet and is responsible to the province’s States Provincial (provincial legislature). The legislature is directly elected by the province.
As of January 1, 2023, there are 342 gemeenten (municipalities) in the Netherlands, also known as local governments. The Dutch municipalities are governed by the College of Mayor and Aldermen, and each municipality’s mayor is appointed by Cabinet. The Aldermen are appointed by the Municipal Council, which is elected by the municipality.
Lastly, there are also water boards, which are responsible for the country's polders, dikes and other waterworks. These boards are also directly elected and have the power to tax their residents.