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Prime Minister of Netherlands
Coat of arms of the Netherlands.svg
Coat of Arms
Jan Peter Balkenende

since 22 July 2002
Residence Catshuis
Appointer Beatrix of the Netherlands
Term length None
Inaugural holder Gerrit Schimmelpenninck
February 19, 1849
Formation Dutch Constitution
Deputy Wouter Bos
André Rouvoet

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands is 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 Jan Peter Balkenende.



The Hague's Binnenhof. The ministry of General Affairs is in the centre with the Torentje, the office of the prime minister of the centre left

Because of his or her limited powers, the prime minister is described as primus inter pares (first among equals).[4]

As a result of the constitutional review of 1983, the position of Prime Minister was inscribed into the Dutch constitution for the first time.[5] According to the constitution, the Government is constituted by the King and the ministers.[6] 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 his own appointment and those of the other ministers are to be contra-signed by the prime minister (article 48).

The prime minister chairs the weekly meetings of the council of ministers and he or she 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 Queen on government policy. Informally the Prime Minister also 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 the Little Tower (Het Torentje) on the Binnenhof in The Hague. The official residence (which is only used for official functions) is the Catshuis.

Conventionally, the party with the highest number of seats in the Second Chamber will initiate coalition talks after elections. This usually leads to its party leader being instituted as formator of the cabinet. After the negotiations are concluded he or she becomes prime minister. A minister from the smaller coalition party usually becomes vice prime minister of the cabinet. If there is a third party in the coalition, one of its ministers will become second vice prime minister.


For a list of historic Prime Ministers, see List 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 a constitution was adopted which made ministers responsible to parliament and Kings inviolable. Before that year ministers were responsible to the King, who acted as 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. In 1971–73 Barend Biesheuvel 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.[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]


The Dutch Constitution uses Minister-President. Colloquially, Eerste Minister (First Minister, which started out as a gallicism and may now be seen as an anglicism) and Premier are also used in the Netherlands.[10]

Netherlands Antilles and Aruba

The Prime Minister is also chairman of the cabinet of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and therefore also deals with matters affecting the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. The independent cabinets of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles also have their own prime ministers: Emily de Jongh-Elhage (Netherlands Antilles) and Nelson O. Oduber (Aruba).


The Queen usually appoints one or two Deputy Prime Ministers. Conventionally all of the junior partners in the coalition, get one deputy, they are ranked according to the size of their respective parties. They chair the meetings of cabinet when the prime minister is not present. If the prime minister as well as the deputes are absent, the oldest member of cabinet chairs the meetings. In the current Balkenende IV Cabinet, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Piet Hein Donner chairs those meetings.


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  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. ^ , a website maintained by the Parliament Documentation Centre of Leiden University.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Van der Pot, 344.
  6. ^ Grondwet voor het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden, article 42, section 1: "De regering wordt gevormd door de Koning en de ministers."
  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, July 10th 2008.
  10. ^ The Dutch-speaking part of Belgium appears to prefer Eerste Minister for its head of government.


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