Government and Politics
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with two houses of parliament.
On 30 April 2013, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother as King of the Netherlands. He delivers the annual Speech from the Throne (government plans for the coming year) and plays a central role in the formation of a new government. King Willem - Alexanders’s birthday is celebrated nationwide on 'King’s Day’, which will officially be celebrated on 27 April (the king’s birthday).
The government in The Hague consists of a Prime Minister and 12 Ministers. The Ministers are assisted by State Secretaries. There are two houses of parliament: the Upper House (‘de Eerste Kamer’), which is elected by the provincial councils, and the Lower House (‘de Tweede Kamer’), which is directly elected.
The proportional representation system is used in all Dutch local and national elections. There are a wide variety of political parties. Some only participate in elections once, or only in specific elections, for instance the elections for municipal councils. The larger parties are organised around a political tradition (for instance liberals, or social democrats), environmental issues or a religious denomination (for instance Christianity). The smaller parties (who usually do not make it into parliament) often have a very specific focus for instance on animal rights, women or elderly people. Since none of the parties ever has a majority in parliament, coalitions of two or more parties are formed.
Most major national political parties are represented on Utrecht Municipal Council, as are ‘Mooi Utrecht’ and ‘Ons Utrecht’, which are two local parties.
The Dutch policies on some social issues are considered to be very liberal, for instance on abortion, drugs and marriages between two men or two women. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides detailed information on these and other policies and various government issues on its website: http://www.minbuza.nl/en.