The legislature is made up of parliament (the States General), the monarch and the ministers. The monarch and ministers form the executive. Under the Constitution, the ministers, and not the monarch, are responsible for acts of government. The ministers are also politically responsible for what the monarch says and does. This is known as ministerial responsibility. It also means that the monarch cannot be forced to abdicate, whereas ministers can be forced to resign.
The monarch has a number of duties as the head of state:
- All Acts of Parliament must be co-signed by the monarch and a minister. In doing so, the minister assumes responsibility for the Act and the monarch gives it the royal assent;
- The monarch plays an important role in the formation of new governments, in part by appointing one or more formateurs to investigate possible coalitions and then an informateur to form a government;
- The monarch is President of the Council of State;
The monarch delivers the Speech from the Throne every year.
There are two Houses of Parliament: the Senate (upper house), with 75 members, elected by the provincial councils. and the House of Representatives (lower house) with 150 members elected by universal suffrage of all Dutch nationals over the age of 18.
The main task of the cabinet is to coordinate government policy. It may also appoint state secretaries (comparable to junior ministers). A government’s term of office usually lasts four years.
The current cabinet has an outgoing status (Demissionary cabinet) and consists of twenty ministers and nine state secretaries.
New elections were held on November 22, 2023. The formation process has started. The distribution of ministers and portfolios is not fixed and can change per cabinet.
The Netherlands is made up of 12 provinces. Each province is administered by a Provincial Council representing the entire population of the province. It is elected directly by the province’s voters for a four-year term and its members elect the Provincial Executive, also for a term of four years, from among their ranks. This body has three to nine members, depending on the size of the province. The Provincial Councils also elect the members of the Senate (upper house of parliament). The Provincial Executive is responsible for day-to-day administration and, for example, law enforcement in the province. The King’s Commissioner (in Limburg also referred to as the Governor), who is appointed by the Crown for a period of six years, presides over both the Provincial Council and the Provincial Executive.
There are 344 municipalities in the Netherlands, each administered by a Municipal Council and a Municipal Executive (composed of the mayor and aldermen). Municipal Councils are elected every four years by the inhabitants of the municipality. The number of aldermen appointed by the Municipal Council depends on the size of the municipality. The mayor chairs both the Council and the Executive. The Executive is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the municipality and for implementing decisions taken by central government and the provincial authorities.
Overall responsibility for the education system lies with the State, specifically the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and the Minister for Primary and Secondary Education. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science lays down statutory requirements for early childhood education, primary and secondary education and secondary vocational education, and has overall control of adult general secondary education (VAVO). The government lays down the framework within which higher education institutions (higher professional education and universities) have to operate, but it is the responsibility of the competent authority of each institution to expand on the government framework in the teaching and examination regulations. The provincial authorities’ role in education is limited to supervisory and legal tasks. The administration and management of primary and secondary schools and schools for secondary vocational education is locally organised.