Nils van der Vegte – The Political Crisis in the Netherlands: The Rise of the Reds?

Da Russophile readers will probably know of Nils van der Vegte. He is a Dutch scholar currently based in Arkhangelsk who runs the site Russia Watchers (with Joera Mulders), with whom I did a co-translation of an article on emigration to Belarus. He also has some strong opinions about politics in his native Netherlands. This article is about the possible political ramifications from the recent collapse of the Dutch government.

On Saturday the 21st of April the Dutch minority government fell after the populist Party of Freedom, under the leadership of Geert Wilders dropped out of the negotiations stating that the new proposed budget cuts would hit its electorate too hard. The question is, what now? New elections will be held in September or October 2012 but what will happen in the meantime? And what will “Brussels” and the financial markets say about the fall of the Dutch government? Some of my international friends asked me about the situation and as I have no blog to explain this, I am most grateful to Anatoly Karlin to provide me with an opportunity to do this.

The political system: A short history

Before I start with a short history of Dutch Politics, it is important to say something about our political system. This is not going to be a very detailed history of more than a hundred pages but to understand the problems of The Netherlands one needs to have some basic knowledge about how things work. The political system is sometimes defined as a consociational state: a mix of parliamentary representative democracy and a constitutional monarchy. My country does not have a president, it has a king or queen (during the last century we only had queens). The king does not have any real powers, his power sharply decreased following the introduction of Ministerial Responsibility in 1848, together with a new constitution. The Prime Minister is the most powerful figure in the government as, for example, in Britain. To form a government in The Netherlands, one needs 75+1 seat in the House of Representatives[1], which consists of 150 seats in total.

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