The cabinet

The cabinet comprises the prime minister, the other ministers and the state secretaries. The prime minister acts as president of the cabinet and chairs the weekly "Council of Ministers". The cabinet formulates and is accountable for the government’s policies.

As a rule, once every four years a new cabinet is formed. This works as follows: in national general elections, citizens cast their votes for candidates of political parties. After the elections it becomes clear how many votes each party has obtained, how many seats they will be allocated in parliament and which candidates have become MPs. During the formation of a cabinet, it is determined which parties can work together to form a coalition. Subsequently, the leaders of these so-called coalition parties negotiate a coalition agreement and the composition of the new cabinet. The so-called cabinet formateur, who is the intended prime minister, selects the other members of the cabinet. The members of the cabinet are officially appointed by the Head of State.

Ministerial responsibility

Ministers are collectively and individually accountable to parliament for their actions when carrying out their duties. Moreover, the ministers are politically accountable for the actions of the Head of State. Parliament also scrutinises the work of state secretaries. Every state secretary is accountable to both the House of Representatives and the Senate, but the ministers remain responsible for the overall policy of their departments.

The “confidence rule”

An individual minister and the cabinet as a whole must have parliament’s confidence. Consequently, a minister, or the whole cabinet, must resign if a majority of parliament no longer has confidence in them. Either of the chambers of parliament can withdraw its confidence, by adopting a motion of no-confidence. In the event of an internal conflict, the cabinet will generally tender its resignation to the head of State, which is often followed by early elections and the formation of a new cabinet.