Netherlands - Government

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy, under the house of Orange-Nassau. Executive power is exercised by the crown and the cabinet, which must have the support of a majority in the parliament. Cabinet ministers may not be members of the parliament. The Council of State, instituted in 1532, is appointed by and presided over by the sovereign; it is composed of a vice president, councillors (28 maximum), and honorary members (25 maximum). The council considers all legislation proposed by the sovereign or the cabinet before it is submitted to the parliament. While functioning in an advisory capacity, the council has executive powers when it implements orders of the sovereign and it has judiciary powers when it acts in disputes concerning the government.

Legislative power is exercised jointly by the crown and the States-General (Staten-Generaal), a bicameral parliament. The upper house (Eerste Kamer) consists of 75 members elected for four years by the provincial representative councils on the basis of proportional representation. The lower house (Tweede Kamer) has 150 members elected for four years directly by the people, also on the basis of proportional representation. Only the lower house has the right to introduce bills and to move amendments, but the upper house can accept or reject bills passed by the other chamber.

All Dutch citizens who have reached the age of 18 years and reside within the Netherlands have the franchise. All citizens who have reached the age of 18 years are eligible for election to the States-General.

Every year on the third Tuesday in September, the session of the States-General is opened at the Hague by the monarch. In the speech from the throne, the government's program for the year is announced. The monarch acts as an adviser to the cabinet, may propose bills, and signs all bills approved by the legislature. Theoretically she could refuse to sign a bill, but this never occurs in practice because the cabinet is responsible for the actions of the ruler. Thus, if the queen should refuse to sign a bill, the cabinet must resign and she must then find a new cabinet acceptable to the parliament.

A formateur is appointed by the sovereign to advise on the program and composition of the new cabinet, which he often does not join when it takes office. If he fails to bring together a new ministry, a new formateur is appointed, and so on until a new cabinet has been formed.

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