Is the Netherlands a Monarchy or a Democracy?

If you know a little about the Netherlands, then you know it has both a prime minister and a monarch. That it has the two offices at the same time probably leaves you wondering about its political system.

Who heads the state and the government? Is it the monarch or the prime minister? And who makes the laws? Is it the monarch or parliament? In short, is the Netherlands a monarchy or a democracy? Here’s the surprising answer: It is both.

Why the Netherlands is both a Monarchy and a Democracy

Yes, the Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy, but under a constitutional monarchy. How is this even possible, you ask? Because it has a two-chamber parliament, this tiny country boasts of being a democracy.

However, its constitution also recognizes the office and defines the powers of the monarch. So, besides being a parliamentary democracy, the Netherlands is also a constitutional monarchy. To understand how this unique arrangement came about, you’ll have to look at the history of the country.

How the Netherlands Became both a Monarchy and a Democracy

If you traveled to the Netherlands before 1806, you’d have found a Dutch republic made up of 12 united provinces. But fast forward to between 1806 and 1810, and the nation would be now under one absolute monarch. Six years later in 1816, the monarchy would’ve been entrenched in and its powers limited by a new Dutch constitution, thereby creating a constitutional monarchy for roughly three decades.

In 1848, your former republic, absolute monarchy, and constitutional monarchy would’ve finally transformed into a democracy with a two chamber parliament, but without removing the constitutional monarchy. Which brings us to the question: What are the roles of these institutions?

What is The Role of Parliament?

As a citizen of the Netherlands, you participate in governance by electing members of the provincial assemblies and the 150 members of the National Assembly or Lower House. While the provincial representatives elect the 75 members of the Upper House or Senate, those of the Lower House make or amend laws.

They also examine and approve the budget, and if necessary, they start inquiries into matters of national interest. In contrast, the senators only approve or reject the laws made by the Lower House.

Who Forms the Government?

After you elect representatives, their parties form coalitions, hoping to gain a majority in parliament. Shortly after, the monarch nominates the majority leader as the Prime Minister.

What is the Role of the Prime Minister?

After being nominated, the Prime Minister selects a cabinet of ministers from outside parliament. Together, they make policies, which govern the nation.

What are the Duties of the Monarch?

You’re probably wondering why the Dutch have a monarch if the Prime Minister heads the government. Well, the monarch is the ceremonial head of state. Besides appointing the Prime Minister and mayors, the monarchy unites the nation, especially when the parliament is plagued by factions.

As you’ve just discovered, the Dutch boast of having both a monarchy and a monarchy. Fortunately for them, these seemingly contradictory institutions work together for the benefit of the nation.


Local Government in Amsterdam

The principal form of local government in the Netherlands is the municipality; with the country boasting of having over 400 municipalities. As the capital city and biggest city in the Netherlands, Amsterdam fits the bill as the largest municipality with more than 800, 000 inhabitants. Amsterdam’s municipality territory spans the city of Amsterdam proper as well as a number of other smaller adjoining towns. In this article, we shall explore the organizational structure of Amsterdam’s local government, the people who make it up and their various functions.

Organisational Structure

The Municipality of Amsterdam is made up of three entities namely, the municipal council/ city council, Municipal executive/ College of mayors and Alderpersons and the district or borough committees.

1. Municipal Council ( City Council.)

The city council is the highest governing body in the Amsterdam municipality and is made up of 45 members elected by the population by way of popular vote. The City council is elected every four years with the current one having a term in office from 2018 to 2022.

The function of the city council includes debating and determining the general policies of the city of Amsterdam and monitoring if the municipal executive is properly implementing municipal policy. The Amsterdam city council holds the power to form municipal council as well as vacate its members from office if need be.

2. Municipal Executive. (College of Mayors and Aldermen)

This is an executive body which consists of the mayor, seven aldermen and a municipal secretary who heads the body of public officials and advises the municipal executive. The main task of the municipal executive is to implement municipal policy passed down by them from the city council. If the city council representatives feel that the aldermen are not performing their jobs satisfactorily, they can vacate them from office.

3. District Committee (Borough Committee.)

Unlike other municipalities in the Netherlands, Amsterdam is divided into eight districts or boroughs following a system introduced back in the 1980s. Prior to 2014, the boroughs were responsible for various activities that are now under the central city local government . The idea of forming this devolved units is to bring governance closer to the people. Since that time, however, the powers of the districts have been significantly curtailed although they are still allowed to have an elected council referred to as the district committee.

The following is a list of some of the boroughs that make up Amsterdam city:

1. Amsterdam-Centrum (English: Centre).
2. Amsterdam-Noord
3. Amsterdam-Oost
4. Amsterdam-Zuid
5. Amsterdam-West
6. Amsterdam-Zuidoost
7. Amsterdam Nieuw-West
8. Westpoort.