Prime Minister of the Netherlands

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands (Dutch: Minister-president van Nederland) is the head of the executive branch of the Government of the Netherlands in his capacity as chair of the Council of Ministers.[1][2][3] The Prime Minister is de facto the head of government of the Netherlands and coordinates its policy with his cabinet. The current Dutch Prime Minister is Mark Rutte, in office since 2010.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Minister-president van Nederland
State Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Mark Rutte

since 14 October 2010
Ministry of General Affairs
StyleHis Excellency
Member ofCouncil of Ministers
European Council
ResidenceCatshuis, The Hague, Netherlands
SeatTorentje, The Hague, Netherlands
as King of the Netherlands
Term length4 years
No term limit
Inaugural holderGerrit Schimmelpenninck
as Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Wim Schermerhorn
as Minister-President
Formation25 March 1848 (1848-03-25)
as Chairman of the Council of Ministers
24 June 1945
as Minister-President
DeputyDeputy Prime Minister
Salary€144,000 (incl. €7,887.24 expenses)
WebsiteMinistry of General Affairs


Although the Prime Minister is the leading political figure in the Netherlands, they are not as powerful as the British Prime Minister and the German Chancellor. This is mainly because, historically, all Dutch ministers used to be responsible to the Monarch; ministers took turns to fill the position of Prime Minister, and in the role had little if any control over the other ministers. The Prime Minister's role gained importance when ministers became responsible to the parliament, and the position became mostly reserved for the leader of the biggest political party in the House of Representatives. Still, because the position holds limited powers compared to its equivalent in other neighboring parliamentary democracies, the Prime Minister's role is described as primus inter pares ("first among equals").[3]

Following the constitutional review of 1983, the position of Prime Minister was formalized in the Dutch Constitution for the first time.[4] According to the Constitution of the Netherlands, the Government is constituted by the King and the ministers.[5] The Constitution stipulates that 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 Council of Ministers is no longer nowadays attended by the King.

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" (Torentje), in the Binnenhof in The Hague. The official residence (which is only used for official functions) is the Catshuis; the last Prime Minister to live in the Catshuis was Dries van Agt. Incumbent Mark Rutte lives in a flat downtown The Hague. The Prime Minister has no security detail.[6]

Although the Prime Minister is almost always the political leader of his party and a member of the House of Representatives, he is required to give up his seat for the duration of his tenure, as Dutch ministers are not allowed to be members of parliament.


The Dutch electoral system makes it all but impossible for one party to win an outright majority in the House of Representatives; no party has done so since 1900. Hence, Dutch governments are always coalitions between two or more parties. After each election, the House appoints a "scout" to seek advice on how to interpret the election results. On the basis of this advice, the House appoints an informateur to check on prospective coalitions and lead negotiations between potential partners. If successful, the House then appoints a formateur, who concludes the talks between the members of the prospective coalition. The formateur is almost always the leader of the largest party in the prospective coalition, and thus de facto Prime Minister-designate. Prior to 2012, the monarch had a considerable role in these talks, but reforms in 2012 largely eliminated royal influence on the process.

It usually takes several months of negotiations before a formateur is ready to accept a formal royal invitation to form a government. The monarch then appoints the ministers and state secretaries (junior ministers), who then resign their seats in the House.

A minister from the smaller coalition party usually becomes Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands. If there is a third or fourth party in the coalition, each has the right to name one of its ministers second and third Deputy Prime Minister.[7]


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 the States General 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.

The position of the Prime Minister has been enforced by the creation of the European Council.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Living Prime Ministers

As of October 2018, there are three Prime Ministers of the Netherlands currently living, the oldest being Dries van Agt. The most recent former Prime Minister to die was Wim Kok who served 1994–2002 and died on 20 October 2018 at the age of 80 years, 21 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: Evelyn Wever-Croes (Prime Minister of Aruba), Eugene Rhuggenaath (Prime Minister of Curaçao), and Silveria Jacobs (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. The senior deputy present chairs the cabinet meeting when the Prime minister is not present. In the current Third Rutte cabinet, Hugo de Jonge chairs those meetings as first Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands, with the other deputies being Kajsa Ollongren and Carola Schouten. The oldest member of the cabinet chairs the meeting when the Prime Minister and all deputies are absent.

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. "Minister-president – Parlement & Politiek". 21 March 2002. Retrieved 23 April 2012.
  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. 'Heeft Rutte dan green bodyguards nodding?, (in Dutch), 29-07-11.
  7. "(In)formateur en kabinetsformatie – Parlement & Politiek". Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  8. Van der Pot, 345
  9. 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.
  10. ”Balkenende rotzooit met staatsrecht”, NRC Handelsblad, 10 July 2008.
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