What comes after Election Day?
The Dutch voted for a new government yesterday. The results are in, showing a clear win for center-right party VVD. Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam and anti-EU party PVV failed to make big gains. What happens next?
In most countries, the day after the elections either feels like a terrible hangover or like a tremendous victory. However, in the Netherlands the elections are only the beginning of a long and complex process. What follows is days, weeks or sometimes even months of discussing, deliberating and compromising.
Unlike countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, the Netherlands have a system of proportional representation, meaning that votes are divided nationally, rather than working with districts. This gives smaller parties a considerably larger chance of ending up in the House of Representatives. However, this also means that it is highly unlikely that one party receives the majority of the votes. This issue brings us to the most time-consuming process of the elections: the formation of the cabinet.
This process starts with the informer. His job is, perhaps unsurprisingly, to gather information. More concretely, this means that the informer has a chat with the head of each party individually and writes a report about this. On the basis of these conversations, the informer will start to negotiate with the parties that are most likely to be able to collaborate. This has to be a combination of parties that, together, has the majority of seats within the House of Representatives and is able to reach compromise together. Negotiations will cover which party will take which ministerial positions and the governing plans. When a concept of the agreement is reached, the informer’s job is done and a formateur is appointed.
In most cases, the formateur is the intended Prime Minister, provided by the largest party. It is the formateur’s job to translate the concept-agreement into reality, by approaching candidates for the different ministerial positions and concluding the formation talks. Once the formateur has decided on a minister for each position, the new ministers draw up a coalition agreement, in which they set out what they want to achieve in the next cabinet period. After a coalition agreement is reached, which is often a matter of compromise, the members of the new cabinet meet to officially pledge their support for the agreement. The majority of the House of Representatives also needs to endorse the agreement.
The new cabinet
The new cabinet is sworn in by the King or Queen. This is the first time King Willem-Alexander, who took over from his mother Beatrix in 2013, will carry out the inauguration. After the new ministers are officially appointed, it is time for the traditional photograph of the King and the new cabinet on the steps of Huis ten Bosch Palace.