A very basic crash course in Dutch politics


This is what you need to know

Came here from a country in which voting means choosing between one candidate or the other? Then the Dutch electoral campaign, with all those different faces and abbreviations (PvdA, PvdD, SP, PVV…)  must be quite confusing.

The good news: it’s actually super easy. A very basic crash course in Dutch politics: this is what you need to know.


Ok, first things first. We have a parliament that’s made up by the House of Representatives (150 seats) and the Senate (75 seats). The House gets to make and adjust bills, the Senate gets to approve or defeat them. That’s how we make laws. On the 15th of March we’re voting for the House of Representatives – like we do every 4 years. We use a piece of paper and a pencil for this – very old school (something about security issues…)

Proportional representation

We have a multi-party system that’s based on proportional representation. That means that all votes count: if 10 percent of the people vote for one party, that party will roughly occupy 10 percent of the House-seats.

Since there’s 28 parties to choose from – yep, quite a lot (but not as many as the 81 who wanted to be on the ballot) – our government’s always a coalition between several parties. The ones that did get votes but weren’t included in the coalition form the opposition. They’re there to correct or even fight the government’s decisions so that all voters feel represented.


You don’t just pick a party, you also pick a candidate within that party. If a candidate gets a certain number of votes, they’re given priority. Otherwise, the order of names on the list is decisive.  

Wow, what a great system!

No confusing electoral votes and districts, no registering: it’s so logical and fair! Well, yeah. But sometimes weird things happen.  If a party gets, let’s say, 20 percent of the votes, but no one wants to rule the country with them, they will never be in the government. Or if none of the parties succeed in forming a government, we have to repeat the whole thing. Just a few examples – but you get the point: no system’s perfect.

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