Appendix:Glossary of Politics of the Netherlands

There are several Dutch terms used in politics in the The Netherlands, which are not easily translated into English. Many of these terms are also used in Belgian politics.


  • Algemene Rekenkamer:
    General Chamber of Auditors. An independent organ that audits the spending of the national government on its efficiency and legitimacy. The Algemene Rekenkamer is appointed by cabinet on advise of the Tweede Kamer.


  • beginselpartij:
    Testimonial party. A party that focuses on its general principles, instead of adapting them to local or temporal issues in the pursuit of coalition participation. Examples include the orthodox protestant ChristenUnie and the SGP. Contrasts with 'programpartij'.
  • brede basis kabinet:
    Oversized cabinet or national cabinet. Literally, broad basis cabinet. Between 1945 and 1959 several cabinets were formed in the Netherlands with more parties than necessary for a parliamentary majority. The first one of which was the Cabinet Schermerhorn. The core of these cabinets were formed by the social democratic PvdA and the catholic KVP, the Rooms/Rood (Roman-Red) alliance which by themselves had a large majority in parliament.
  • burgemeester:
    Mayor. Leader of the municipal executive ('College van Burgemeester en Wethouders'). In the Netherlands, burgermeesters are de facto appointed by the national cabinet, de jure by the queen. They preside both the municipal executive and the legislative ('gemeenteraad'). The title is sometimes translated as burgomaster, to emphasize the appointed, rather than elected, nature of the office.


  • coalitie:
    1. The Coalition (De Coalitie). An alliance of the three "Confessioneel" parties: Christian Historical Union (CHU), Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) and [[Catholic People's Party) (CPP);
    2. Any coalition of parties, normally referring to the current governing parties.
  • concentratie:
    An alliance of liberal parties. Literally concentration. In the 'antithese' the liberals united in the concentratie. Main issue for the liberal parties was the implementation of universal suffrage


  • demissionair kabinet:
    A special type of caretaker government. Between the dissolvement of parliament by the Dutch Monarch and the installment of a new parliament by elections, the incumbent cabinet remains in place, limiting itself to urgent and pressing matters and traditionally not taking any controversial decisions. An example was the cabinet Den Uyl between 22 March and 18 December, 1977, during the formation of the cabinet Van Agt-I.
  • doorbraak:
    Breakthrough. After the Second World War there was wide spread feeling that the pillarized politics was to be broken open. In order to force this breakthrough the socialist SDAP, the left-liberal VDB and the christian-socialist CDU united to form the PvdA.
  • dualisme:
    Political dualism. The separation of powers between the Dutch cabinet and parliament. In this respect, the way the Dutch cabinets function is somewhere in between the USA and UK systems of government. Unlike the US system, the legislative consists of the cabinet together with the parliament and cabinets are formed on basis of a majority in parliament. Unlike the UK system, cabinet ministers cannot be members of parliament. An important political issue is whether ministers and leaders of governing parliamentary parties should pre-cook important political decisions. According to the dualistic position, members of parliament of governing parties should function independent of their cabinet. Contrast with 'monisme'.


  • eenmansfractie:
    Parliamentary party, 'fractie', formed by only one person. Sometimes parties obtain only enough votes to get one seat under proportional representation.
  • extra-parlementair kabinet:
    A cabinet not based on a parliamentary majority. The last extra-parliamentary cabinet was the cabinet Den Uyl. It consisted of members of the three progressive parties (the social-democratic PvdA, the social-liberal D66, and the progressive-christian PPR) and progressive members from the christian-democratic ARP and KVP. Contrasts with 'parlementair kabinet'.
  • formateur:
    Politician who leads the formal talks that lead to the formation of a cabinet, often the leader of the largest party. Often the formateur presides the talks about the ministerial positions that are held between the parties that have already written a communal program, the 'regeerakkoord'. The formateur's work is preceded by the 'informateur'. Neither of these positions is described in any law, instead they are part of Dutch political tradition. The formateur is appointed by the Dutch monarch.
  • formatie:
    The formation of a new cabinet. Since it never happens that a single party has the majority of the seats in the Tweede Kamer, a coalition of two or often three parties is always necessary. After the elections the Queen, the independent head of government, has an important role in the formation process, appointing the 'Informateur', who chairs explorative talks between prospective partners and a 'Formateur' who chairs the final talks, the core of the formation. After he is finished the Queen appoints the ministers.
  • fractievoorzitter:
    chairperson of a parliamentary party. After the election most Lijsttrekkers become fractievoorzitter of their parliamentary party. Often the fractievoorzitter is the most influential politician of the party, and often the main media contact. As an example, Andre Rouvoet is the current fractievoorzitter of the ChristenUnie Christian Union.


  • gedogen:
    A policy of 'toleration', not enforcing certain laws. The Dutch government tolerates some offences. Some things like smoking marijuana are formally forbidden by law, but the Dutch government abstains from bringing criminal charges to these offenders.
  • gemeenteraad:
    Municipal council. The "gemeenteraad" is the legislative assembly of a "gemeente".




  • leefbaar:
    Liveable. Leefbaar was a political movement in the Netherlands. It is not a party in itself but consists of a national branch, Leefbaar Nederland and many municipal branches, the most famous and most successful of which is Leefbaar Rotterdam. These branches have no formal ties, and often have radically different programs, sharing only their disdain for the political establishment. The movement started in 1993 in Hilversum. Leefbaar Nederland, a national branch, was created. It entered the 2002 national elections with Pim Fortuyn as their main candidate.
  • lijstduwer:
    A well known non-politician who is officially a candidate for parliament, but put at the end of the party list, merely to endorse the party, in order for it to receive more votes. The candidate is not likely to become member of parliament, nor does he want to. In 2003, the writer Harry Mulisch was lijstduwer for the Party for the Animals.
  • lijsttrekker:
    Top candidate of a party and the first person on the party list. After the election this person usually functions as party leader, either as leader of the parliamentary party, as minister or as minister-president. During the election campaign these persons attract the most attention, for example in lijsttrekker-debates, where the lijsttrekkers debate important issues with other lijsttrekkers on television. For example in the 2003 elections, Wouter Bos was lijsttrekker for the social-democratic PvdA.
  • lijstverbinding:
    Electoral alliance between two or more parties. In a system of proportional representation not all seats are immediately divided, some seats remain undivided remainder seats. In the Netherlands these are allocated by the D'Hondt method. This method strongly favours larger parties (often smaller parties get no remainder seats, whereas the three largest parties get two each). But if smaller parties form an alliance their votes are added up for the distribution of seats, so this increases their chances of getting one.


  • monisme:
    Political monism. A state of lack of separation of powers between the Dutch cabinet and parliament. The way the Dutch cabinets function is somewhere in between the USA and UK systems of government. Unlike the US system, the cabinet forms the legislative together with the parliament, and cabinets are formed on basis of a majority in parliament. Unlike the UK system, cabinet ministers can not be member of parliament. An important political issue is whether ministers and leaders of governing parliamentary parties should prepare important political decisions. According to the monistic position, members of parliament of governing parties should be able to prepare important decision with ministers in order to promote political stability. Contrasts with 'dualisme'.


  • Nationale Ombudsman:
    National Ombudsman. The Nationale Ombudsman deals with citizens' complaints against improper conduct of government. He (or she) is appointed by cabinet on advise of the Tweede Kamer.


  • Paars:
    Purple. The nickname of a government coalition of social-democrats and liberals, excluding christian-democrats. It is derived from the combination of the colour of the liberals (blue) and social-democrats (red). Both the Netherlands and Belgium have had such governments. In the Netherlands, the two cabinets of Wim Kok (Kok I and Kok II) were composed of social-democrats (PvdA), progressive liberals (D66) and conservative liberals (VVD). The cabinet was characterized by consensus, known as the 'poldermodel'.
    In Belgian politics, the term is used as a term for the two governments of Guy Verhofstadt, from 1999 to the current moment.
  • parlementair kabinet:
    A cabinet based on parliamentary majority. Most Dutch cabinets are based on majority in parliament. Exceptions to this rule are called 'extra-parlemantaire kabinetten'. Since a parlementair kabinet is the normal state of affairs, the term is only used in contrast with extra-parlementair kabinets.
  • partijvoorzitter:
    Party chairman. In the Netherlands and Belgium the position of party chairman differs greatly. In Belgium the chairman of a political party is the mightiest person within the party, controlling appointments etc. After the Prime Minister of Belgium the party chairmen are the most important figures in Belgian politics, sometimes characterized as a particracy. In the Netherlands, in contrast, the chairpersons are relatively weak, due to a separation of powers. Chairpersons of political parties merely control the party organization, the bureau, and its finances, while the political leader, often the Fractievoorzitter, decides over the party's political course.
  • programpartij:
    A party explicitly seeking government participation in order to execute its program. Most Dutch parties seek government participation. Exceptions to this rule are called 'beginselpartijen'. The term programpartij is only used in contrast with this.
  • publiekrechtelijke bedrijfsorganisatie:
    Public law corporation/organisation. PBOs is the whole of self-regulatory organizations for specific economic sectors. These specific organizations are called Product- en Bedrijfschappen (Product- and Company Boards). There is a productschap for dairy which can propose binding regulation for all companies in the dairy sector and which can set quality standards and quotas for dairy producing organisations. These Product- en Bedrijfschappen are formed by representatives of trade unions and employers' organizations in the sector. At the top of all PBOs stands the Social Economic Council, instituted in the 1950s.


  • regeerakkoord:
    Coalition agreement. A Dutch cabinet subjects itself to a regeerakkoord, in which the most important goals and objectives of the cabinet are written down by the leaders of the parliamentary parties and the 'informateur'. The regeerakkoord of the Balkenende-II cabinet is called Meer Werk, Meedoen, Minder Regels ("More Work, Participation, Less Rules"), emphasizing the three goals of the cabinet: revitalization of the economy, integration of ethnic minorities and institutional reform.
  • rompkabinet:
    caretaker cabinet. A rompkabinet is the continuation of a Dutch cabinet when it has lost a coalition partner, a form of minority government, where the cabinet has not become demissionair, but seeks support from a majority of parliament to finish the work that was already introduced by the cabinet to the parliament.
  • Rooms/Rood:
    Roman/Red. A term used to describe a centre-left coalition of catholic and socialist parties. Roman refers to Roman-Catholic and Red to the colour of the Socialists. Between 1946 and 1958 the catholic KVP and the social-democratic PvdA formed the core of several 'roman/red' cabinets, led by w:Willem Drees. After the catholic KVP merged with they two protestant parties to form the non-denominational CDA the term was used less in Dutch politics. In Belgian politics is still used to describe cabinets made up out of the catholic CD&V and CDh and the social-democratic SP.A and PS.


  • schoolstrijd:
    Historical conflict over the equalisation of public financing for religious schools. Protestant and catholic parties, the ARP and CHU and the Algemeene Bond respectively, wanted their religious schools to receive financing equal to that received by public schools; while maintaining their freedom in for example curriculum, teacher appointments etc. that came with their tradition. Liberals tried to protect the privileged financial position of public schools. The conflict lasted from 1888 to 1918, when it was resolved in the 'pacificatie'.
  • staatssecretaris:
    Deputy minister, junior minister or vice-minister (plur. staatssecretarissen). Staatssecretarissen are members of cabinet, who work under a minister. They fall under the responsibility of the minister, but are separately responsible to parliament. They take over part of the minister's portfolio. Some staatssecretarissen have clearly defined portfolios like culture, science or the environment, while others' portfolios overlap with their minister's. Staatssecretarissen almost always have a different political affiliation than their minister. Staatssecretarissen do not attend the weekly ministerraad unless asked to do so. Some staatssecretarissen have impressive political careers after their staatssecretariaat while others disappear into oblivion. An example of a successful staatssecretraris is current European Commissioner of Competition Neelie Kroes.


  • voorkeurstem:
    Preference vote. Because of the open list proportional representation system voters can indicate their preference for a particular individual candidate by voting for him or her. Most people vote for the 'lijstrekker' indicating no special preference, but a support for the party in general. Sometimes, however, people want to express their support for a particular person. Many women, for example, vote for the first woman on the list. If a candidate gathers enough preference votes he gets a seat in parliament, even his position on the list would leave him without a seat.