Prime Minister of the Netherlands

Prime Minister of the Netherlands

State Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Mark Rutte
Mark Rutte

since 14 October 2010
Ministry of General Affairs
Style His Excellency
Member of Council of Ministers
European Council
Residence Catshuis, The Hague, Netherlands
Appointer Willem-Alexander
as King of the Netherlands
Term length 4 years
No term limit
Formation March 25, 1848 (1848-03-25)
as Chairman of the Council of Ministers
24 June 1945
as Minister-President
First holder Gerrit Schimmelpenninck
as Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Wim Schermerhorn
as Minister-President
Deputy Deputy Prime Minister
Salary €144,000 (incl. €7,887.24 expenses)
Website Ministry of General Affairs

The Minister-President of the Netherlands (Dutch: Minister-president van Nederland), commonly referred to in English as the Prime Minister, is the head of the executive arm of the Dutch government and the chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Netherlands.[1][2][3] He is the de facto head of government of the Netherlands and coordinates the policy of the government. The current prime minister is Mark Rutte.


Although he is the most important political figure in the Netherlands, the Prime Minister is not as powerful as his British and German counterparts. This is mainly because, due to the Dutch system of proportional representation, it is nearly impossible for one party to get a majority of seats in the House of Representatives (lower house). Therefore, the government is always a coalition between two or more parties. Because of his limited powers, the prime minister is described as primus inter pares (first among equals).[3]

As a result of the constitutional review of 1983, the position of Prime Minister was inscribed into the Dutch constitution for the first time.[4] According to the constitution, the Government is constituted by the King and the ministers.[5] The constitution stipulates the Prime Minister chairs the council of ministers (article 45) and is appointed by royal decree (article 43). The royal decree of their own appointment and those of the other ministers are to be countersigned by the Prime Minister (article 48).

The Prime Minister chairs the weekly meetings of the council of ministers and has the power to set the agenda of these meetings. The prime minister is also Minister of General Affairs (Minister van Algemene Zaken), which takes an important role in coordinating policy and is responsible for the Government Information Service (Dutch: Rijksvoorlichtingsdienst). The Prime Minister is also responsible for the royal house and has a weekly meeting with the King on government policy. Informally the Prime Minister functions as the "face" of the cabinet to the public. After the meetings of the cabinet on Friday, the Prime Minister hosts a press conference on the decisions of the cabinet and current affairs. The Prime Minister also has some functions in international affairs, attending the European Council every six months and maintaining bilateral contacts. The Prime Minister's office is a hexagon shaped tower, named "The Little Tower" Het Torentje on the Binnenhof in The Hague. The official residence (which is only used for official functions) is the Catshuis.

The Hague's Binnenhof. The Ministry of General Affairs is in the centre, with on the centre left a hexagonal tower, named The Torentje, which is the office of the Prime Minister

Conventionally, the party with the largest number of seats in the Second Chamber will initiate coalition talks after elections. These negotiations are concluded by means of a so-called "government agreement". The Second Chamber will have a debate about this agreement and, if this agreement meets sufficient support, the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the Second Chamber will be instituted as formator of the cabinet. He or she usually appoints her/himself Prime Minister. A minister from the smaller coalition party usually becomes Deputy Prime Minister of the cabinet. If there is a third party in the coalition, one of its ministers will become the second Deputy Prime Minister.[6]


Azure, billetty Or a lion with a coronet Or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together Or. [The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht.] The shield is crowned with the (Dutch) royal crown and supported by two lions Or armed and langued gules. They stand on a scroll Azure with the text (Or) "Je Maintiendrai" (French for "I will maintain".)
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Netherlands

For a list of historic Prime Ministers, see List of Prime Ministers of the Netherlands. For a list of Prime Ministers by age, see List of Prime Ministers of the Netherlands by age. For a list of Prime Ministers by religious affiliations, see Religious affiliations of Prime Ministers of the Netherlands.

Gradually the Prime Minister became an official function of government leader, taken by the political leader of the largest party. Since 1848 the role of the first minister has become relevant. In that year the Constitution of the Netherlands was amended to make ministers responsible to parliament, rather than - as hitherto - being responsible to the King, who acted as the leader of cabinet. Until 1901 the position chair of the council of ministers officially rotated between ministers. Between 1901 and 1945 the position formally still rotated but prominent politicians were able to claim a rotation period of four years. In 1937 a separate Ministry of General Affairs was instituted which was informally linked to the Prime Minister. Barend Biesheuvel (1971-1973) was the last Prime Minister who was not the political leader of the largest party in cabinet, but actually of the third largest. In 1983 the function of Prime Minister was laid down in the constitution.

Living Prime Ministers of the Netherlands at a lunch organised by the incumbent Mark Rutte on 5 July 2011. From left to right: Wim Kok, Dries van Agt, Piet de Jong, Mark Rutte, Ruud Lubbers, and Jan Peter Balkenende.

The position of the Prime Minister has been enforced by the creation of the European Council.[7] In November 2006, the rules of procedure of the council of ministers was changed to allow the Prime Minister to put any item on the agenda of the council, whereas before he had to wait for a minister to take the initiative.[8] A change of the rules of procedure of the cabinet in July 2008 allowed the Prime Minister to direct other ministers on the costs of the Royal House, which are covered by several ministries.[9]

Living Prime Ministers

As of August 2016, there are five Prime Minister of the Netherlands currently living, the oldest being Dries van Agt. The most recent former Prime Minister to die was Piet de Jong who served 1967–1971 and died on 27 July 2016 at the age of 101 years, 115 days.

Prime Minister Term Born Age
Dries van Agt 1977–1982 2 February 1931 85 years, 321 days
Ruud Lubbers 1982–1994 7 May 1939 77 years, 226 days
Wim Kok 1994–2002 29 September 1938 78 years, 81 days
Jan Peter Balkenende 2002–2010 7 May 1956 60 years, 226 days
Mark Rutte 2010– 14 February 1967 49 years, 309 days

Countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands

The Prime Minister is also Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and therefore also deals with matters affecting the other countries Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten in the Kingdom. The independent cabinets of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten also have their own prime ministers: Mike Eman (Prime Minister of Aruba), Ben Whiteman (Prime Minister of Curaçao), and William Marlin (Prime Minister of Sint Maarten). The Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands includes Minister Plenipotentiary from the other countries of the Kingdom. These are not included in the government of the Kingdom.


The King appoints Deputy Prime Ministers. Conventionally all of the junior partners in the coalition get one Deputy Prime Minister; they are ranked according to the size of their respective parties. When the Prime minister is not present at a cabinet meeting, the senior deputy present chairs it. In the current Second Rutte cabinet Lodewijk Asscher the Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands chairs those meetings.If the Prime Minister and the deputies are absent, the oldest member of the cabinet chairs the meeting. In the current Second Rutte cabinet Henk Kamp the Minister of Economic Affairs chairs those meetings.

See also


  1. Grondwet voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden [Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands], article 45 section 2.
  2. Van der Pot, C.W., Donner, A.M.: Handboek van het Nederlandse staatsrecht [Handbook of Dutch Constitutional Law], page 344-345. Zwolle: W.E.J. Tjeenk Willink, 1983.
  3. 1 2 "Minister-president - Parlement & Politiek". 2002-03-21. Retrieved 2012-04-23.
  4. Van der Pot, 344.
  5. Grondwet voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, article 42, section 1: "De regering wordt gevormd door de Koning en de ministers."
  6. "(In)formateur en kabinetsformatie - Parlement & Politiek". Retrieved 2013-01-26.
  7. Van der Pot, 345
  8. Van Middelaar, Luuk: De passage naar Europa. Geschiedenis van een begin [The Passage to Europe. History of A Beginning], page 409. Groningen: Historische Uitgeverij 2009.
  9. ”Balkenende rotzooit met staatsrecht”, NRC Handelsblad, 10 July 2008.
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