A healthy governance culture begins with the rotation of the premiership

A healthy governance culture begins with the rotation of the premiership

Mark Rutte kisses Caroline van der Plas (BBB) ​​after the debate over the fall of Rutte IV’s cabinet.David Van Damme’s photo

Parliamentary elections will not take place until November, but the main question is already: Who will succeed Mark Rutte in Thuringia? The number of politicians openly seeking the premiership is increasing. jungle vs. Balkenende, Root vs. Samsom, Yesilgoz vs. Timmermans: For years, citizens and the media have also been happy to participate in the obsession with the prime minister. However, this intrigue of the prime minister detracts from the aim of the parliamentary elections, namely the election of healthy and disinterested representatives of the people who control the government.

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Matthew Tillman Postdoctoral researcher and historian at Arizona State University.

This is a submitted contribution and does not necessarily reflect de Volkskrant’s position. Read more about our opinion article policy here.

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For the parliamentary elections to be about the House of Representatives again, an overhaul of the selection of the Prime Minister and the House of Representatives must take place. A rotating prime minister, following the example of Ireland, Israel and Switzerland, would be a good first step towards restoring a healthy administrative culture.


The role of the prime minister was never created for any specific purpose, but rather emerged as an unintended by-product of democracy. After a major reform of the Dutch constitution in 1848, the position of prime minister was created in the Netherlands, roughly based on the English model. However, what exactly the prime minister should do has been left unspecified for decades and filled in by office holders. It was not until 1984 that the duties of the prime minister were defined in the constitution, i.e. chairing the cabinet.

Constitutionally, the prime minister, like all other ministers, is appointed and dismissed by the king. But in practice now the appointment goes through the House of Representatives. For more than fifty years, since the government of Din Aweil, the leader of the largest party in parliamentary elections has automatically become prime minister.


Thanks to this well-established appointment procedure, parliamentary elections have become presidential elections in disguise. The Americanization of Dutch politics means that every social problem can be traced back to a prime minister who, unlike the US, is allowed to cling to the most luxurious forever.

Since 1982, even Russia has more political leaders than the Netherlands and North Korea only one less. For the past thirteen years, Mark Rota has been the political and cultural pole around which media, politicians and the population dance together, especially around election time.

As a result, our expectations of the House of Representatives have been distorted. We have collectively become accustomed to the fact that the MPs in the coalition parties are just a machine applauding the Cabinet. The opposition, on the other hand, is an outlet for the weak: they shout about how bad everything is, but vote with or without. And the fact that the issue of benefits escaped from the House of Representatives for years indicates a defect in the work of Parliament, which revolves mainly around the exercise of power and the stage rather than control.

However, the Netherlands actually longs for the people’s representatives who monitor the government and denounce abuses. Just look at Peter Umtzigt, the MP who understands his job and who has no fewer than 46 seats in the polls with his own imaginary party.

Power sharing

Instead of the current system, the next prime minister should be appointed on principle Power sharing or power sharing. The procedure for appointing the Prime Minister should be changed to one that rotates at regular intervals in the cabinet’s mandate.

In Switzerland, for example, the presidency is rotated each year among the various members of the Bundesrat, the Swiss equivalent of a cabinet. In Israel, where, as in the Netherlands, they seem to have a permanent prime minister in Bibi Netanyahu, the previous government rotated the premiership which unfortunately did not survive the recent elections. Likewise in Ireland where the position of the Taoiseach, the Irish Prime Minister, has recently changed hands after an agreed two years.

Regular rotation of the premiership makes it a temporary job without the allure of power. More importantly, the rotating prime minister brings back the real purpose behind the parliamentary elections, which is to elect the representatives of the people to control the government. In view of the growing tasks of government and its proven failure to carry them out, the election of such representatives of the people is not an unnecessary luxury.

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