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  • The buildings of the Senate and the House of Representatives at the Binnenhof (the Inner Court) in The Hague are to undergo major renovations. As from 2020 the Binnenhof will be renovated in one go. The renovation work will take 5,5 years and cost no more than 475 million euros. Read more ...

The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy

The Parliament of the Netherlands is called the States General (Staten-Generaal in Dutch) It consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) and the Senate (Eerste Kamer). The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy, which means that citizens have a say in how the country is run, by casting their votes in parliamentary elections. All Dutch nationals aged 18 or over have the right to vote and to stand for election. They elect the members of the House of Representatives. Members of the Senate are also elected, but indirectly, namely by the members of the provincial councils. The members of the provincial councils are elected by the citizens entitled to vote.

Democracy

The States General represent the entire people of the Netherlands. This has not always been the case, however. In the past, most people had no say in how the Netherlands was governed. The development of democracy took time and struggle.

Provinces

In the 15th century, the Netherlands and Belgium were made up of a number of provinces, each with its own ruler, in the shape of a duke or a count, for example, who was advised by a council of noblemen, which sometimes also included clergymen. If the ruler had an important announcement pending, he invited representatives from the towns to attend the council meeting. An occasional meeting of this kind was a provincial council meeting.

First States General held in 1464

Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy, managed to become count or duke of several provinces. In preparation of a number of important decisions, in 1464, he convened the very first meeting of all the provincial councils. This meeting, held in the town hall of Bruges, became known as the States General. In the years that followed, they met more frequently, later on also on their own initiative.

The first elected Parliament of the Netherlands

The Batavian-French period (1795-1813) saw the first meeting of an elected Parliament in the Netherlands. After 1813, the Netherlands became a monarchy under the House of Orange. The people's representation (the Senate and the House of Representatives) took part in the decision making, the ministers implemented the policy measures, but the King had a final say in many state matters.

Constitution

The Netherlands got a new Constitution in 1848, under the leadership of liberal statesman Johan Rudolf Thorbecke. From then on, the ministers were accountable for law and policy- making; Parliament scrutinized their work. The King remained head of state, but was left out of the political decision-making. He was inviolable. These principles still form the basis of Dutch parliamentary democracy.

The history of the Dutch Parliament in pictures and text

On this website you can watch and listen to the history of the Dutch Parliament. More information can be found at the House of Representatives through the ages.