The Netherlands is low-lying country in western Europe located west of Germany and north of Belgium. According to a 1993 estimate, the Netherlands had a population of 15,224,942. The overall population density was about 449 persons per sq km (about 1162 per sq mi) which makes it one of the most densely populated countries in the world. About 89 percent of the population live in urban areas. The largest cities are Amsterdam (population, 1992 estimate, 713,407), the country’s capital; Rotterdam (589,707), one of the world’s leading seaports; The Hague (445,287), the nation’s seat of government; and Utrecht (232,705), a manufacturing hub. The official language of the Netherlands is Dutch, which is spoken throughout the country.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government operating under an 1812 constitution with amendments. The hereditary monarch, who has had little power in running the government since the constitution was revised in 1848, acts as the head of the state while the principal executive official of the country is the prime minister. He is appointed by the monarch and heads a cabinet that is responsible to the States-General (legislature). The Dutch parliament, called the States-General, consists of a First Chamber, composed of 75 members elected to terms of up to six years by the provincial legislatures, and a Second Chamber, made up of 150 members popularly elected to terms of up to four years under a system of proportional representation. Either or both chambers may be dissolved by the monarch on condition that new elections be held within 40 days. The Second Chamber is by far the more important of the two; the First Chamber has little more than a rarely exercised veto power over the legislative process.
The Netherlands uses systems of proportional representation in electing municipal, provincial, and national assemblies. This allows even small political parties to win a seat. In the 1986 Second Chamber elections, for example, more than 25 parties took part and nine won seats. On the national level, the Netherlands has always been governed by coalitions of parties, the formation of which has often proved difficult. However, one such coalition was formed in 1994 between the PvdA (Labor), VVD (Conservative Liberals), and D66 (Social Liberals). The PvdA and VVD are parties that have both been around for quite some time. What made the 1994 election so big was the defeat of the CDA (Christian Democrats) by D66. This combination of parties proved to be quite advantageous to the Netherlands. “It was the first government since 1917, when the suffrage was extended to all male adults, without Christian Democrats” (Van der Brug 179).
During the reign of this coalition, the economy of the Netherlands soared. Consumer spending increased and unemployment decreased to a low of 5 percent in the first quarter of 1998 “There is no such doubt about the performance of the Dutch economy. Gross domestic product (GDP) has expanded strongly in the last two years – by 2.7 percent in 1996 and 3.4 per cent in 1997- and analysts expect GDP Growth to be even higher in 1998” (Mottershaw 9). With all of the economic growth that happening in the Netherlands, one would assume that the elections of 1998 would keep the same coalition together. “However, in a multiparty system such as the Netherlands, things are never that simple. Governing parties may be collaborating partners in coalition, but, in the run-up to the election they increasingly become opponents competing for votes” (Van der Brug 180). This competition for votes is exactly what took place in the 1998 elections. The popularity of the prime minister Wim Kok and his party, PvdA, won the party more seats which were taken from the D66. D66 also gave up some seats to other small parties such as the Socialist Party and the Green Left.
The results of this recent election have caused a major stir in the country and around the world. “Since the purple’ coalition was created in 1994 D66 has played a pivotal role, bridging the gap between the two main parties. However, with their seats reduced by nearly half – from 24 to 14 – the party’s participation in the