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How realistic is a minority Dutch government?

The promise made in the run-up to the last Dutch elections that the ‘next cabinet formation process will be quicker and more transparent’ has already proven unrealistic. To what extent does a minority Dutch government stand a chance in the Netherlands’ fragmented political landscape? Corné Smit, external PhD student at Leiden Law School’s Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law, discussed this in Dutch daily newspaper ‘NRC’.

Poverty or wealth

Corné Smit is currently conducting research into minority governments. He argues that ‘it matters whether a minority government is the result of poverty or wealth’. It may be beneficial for the PVV, VVD and BBB parties to reach an agreement with Omtzigt on limiting migration and other important issues. The willingness of other opposition parties to engage in discussions with a minority government would be good, but there lies a problem. The opposition would boycott potential collaboration in a minority government with the leader of the PVV, Geert Wilders.

Scandinavian minority governments

Meanwhile, Scandinavian countries do not shy away from forming minority governments. Experience has shown that opposition parties have enabled constructive collaboration with minority governments. Smit says that in Denmark, the proposal to limit migration was supported by the Social Democratic Party, but not by other left-wing parties. Denmark’s government also manages to reach subagreements.

Smit continues, 'In the past year, for example, the government struck a long-term deal to raise NATO's 2% defence investment guideline. Both right-wing and left-wing parties were involved in that agreement.' A key difference is that the radical-right Danish People's Party is not part of the government, unlike the Netherlands’ right-wing populist PVV party.

More information

Read the full NRC article (in Dutch, €)

Photo: Martijn Vonk through Unsplash

A minority government

Once formed, Dutch cabinets usually support a majority of the Dutch House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) and the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer). If this is not the case, a ‘minority government’ is formed. It is very difficult for minority governments to pass bills as the opposition has more seats than the governing parties and can therefore easily block government proposals. For each issue, the government has to seek support from the opposition in order to gain a majority, which delays the decision-making process.

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