MPs end Queen’s role in coalition formation

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The Dutch head of state will no longer play a role in the formation of coalition governments after general elections. A large majority of MPs have voted in favour of parliament taking over the sovereign's role at such times.

Dutch elections are often followed by a complicated process aimed at forming a ruling coalition. The head of state, at present Queen Beatrix, appoints an informateur, who looks at the possibilities for a coalition. Once these have been established, the sovereign appoints a formateur to oversee the coalition negotiations between the various political parties involved.

Many think the ability to appoint an informateur and a formateur represents too much political power for a constitutional monarch.

The text for the change in the parliamentary rules of procedure after elections was drawn up jointly by opposition parties: the Labour Party, the Freedom Party, the Socialist Party, Green Left, D66 and the Animal Rights Party. Together the parties hold 91 of the 150 seats in parliament. They only reached agreement on a text for the change last week. 

Constitutional expert, Douwe Jan Elzinga, warns that MPs have taken a great risk by removing the head of state’s role in the formation process. He says the text should have included the possibility of calling on the sovereign for help if necessary.

RTL News says parliament has had the power since 1971 to circumvent the head of state during the formation process, but has never exercised that power. It points out that MPs could in the future easily reverse the latest change in the rules of procedure. 

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