The workings of democracy

Since it is impossible for everyone to take a hand in running the country, the people elect representatives to act on their behalf, such as the members of the House of Representatives and municipal councils.

Parliamentary democracy

The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy. This means that elections are periodically held, giving citizens the opportunity to cast their vote for the candidates from the political parties that best represent their views.

Representatives are elected by the Dutch people at various levels:

  • national: the members of the House of Representatives;
  • provincial: the members of the provincial council (who in turn elect the members of the Senate);
  • municipal: the members of the municipal council;
  • other: the general board of the local water authority.

Duties of representatives

Elected representatives have a number of duties:

  • the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives scrutinise the work of the government (ministers and state secretaries);
  • the members of a provincial council set policy in the province;
  • the members of a municipal council set policy in the municipality and scrutinise the work of the municipal executive;
  • the members of the general board of the water authority scrutinise the work of the executive board.

Role of representatives in a democracy

Citizens elect their representatives, choosing people they feel will promote their interests. Representatives must therefore be aware of the social issues of the day. To stay informed of current events, they confer with members of the public and a wide variety of interest groups, for example during working visits. They also answer questions by email and letter.

Citizens’ influence in a democracy

Citizens can also influence local or national politics by taking action themselves, for example by sending emails to members of parliament or town councils. They can also submit petitions or launch citizens' initiatives.

Information on democracy and the rule of law

The government would like to get the public more involved in politics and society. One way of doing this is through the organisation ProDemos, House for Democracy and Rule of Law.