by Daniël P Melters
On September 12th, 2012, the Dutch went to the polls for the 29th time since the end of the Second World War to vote for who will represent them in parliament. On April 23rd, 2012 the first Rutte cabinet fell after the Catshuis Negotiations went nowhere (austerity measure negotiations with the “gedoog” (which translates to ‘active tolerance’) Party for Freedom (PVV) of Geert Wilders and the Rutte cabinet). Today (Nov 5th, 2012), 169 days after the fall and 54 days after the elections, Rutte’s second cabinet was sworn into office by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
|Rutte II with Queen Beatrix present themselves to the media – from NRC Handelsblad: http://www.nrc.nl/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/bordes.klein_.jpg|
On average a Dutch cabinet is in power for 2 years and 5 months (standard deviation of 553 days and a median of 2 years and 2 months) since the end of World War 2 (including demissionary cabinet). The average demissionair time of a cabinet is 96 days (with a standard deviation of 75 days and a median of 69 days). In other words, after 29 elections in the last 67 years, the Netherlands didn’t have a ruling government for 2,788 days or over 7.5 years.
How does the average time of a Dutch cabinet in office compare to the time in office by cabinets from its neighbouring countries? To make any meaningful comparison, I had to limit myself to countries with similar types of governments. The obvious candidates were Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium. All four countries are monarchies, just like the Netherlands, and in all four countries the Prime Minister is the political head-of-state. I also added the United Kingdom, despite it less well defined role of the Prime Minister, as well as Germany even though it is a republic. In Germany the head-of-state is the president, but the political head-of-state is the Prime Minister. All seven countries are in close geopolitical proximity and share considerable historical, cultural, and economical ties. Where things differ a bit are that both Belgium and Germany are federations, in contrast to the other five.
Countries like France or Finland would not have been good candidates for a comparison, as these countries are, just like Germany, republics, but the presidents in these countries are not only the head-of-state, they are also the political head-of-state.
I obtained the times in office per cabinet per country from the respective lists on Wikipedia (follow links per country above). Below are some basic statistical findings.
When we look over time and plot each cabinet’s time in office (Figure 2), we can see how erratic time in office per cabinet is. Especially in the Netherlands, it seems that a cabinet’s performs in either all or nothing. This quick and dirty analysis does not include continuing Prime Ministers, in which Sweden would stand out with Tage Erlander ruled for over 23 years (from 1946 to 1969). On the other end of the spectrum, Denmark suffered the loss of two Prime Ministers in succession (Hans Hedtoft and Hans Christian Hansen). Similarly, the Netherlands suffered some political/social unrest following the assassinations of Pim Fortuyn (2002) and Theo van Gogh (2004), whereas Sweden had to deal with the still unsolved murder/assassination of Olof Palme. The precise effects (long or short term) of such events are difficult to calculate.
|Figure 2: For each country a histogram plot was made to display the relative time in office of each cabinet since WWII.|
In conclusion, a cabinet in the Netherlands performs as a function of time in office roughly similar to its neighbouring cabinets. If anything does stand out, is that a cabinet in the Netherlands will either stay in office full term or will fall within the first two years in office. This means that Rutte II has a 25% change of serving for 4 years, yet no Dutch citizen should be surprised to go back to the voting booth within the next 48 months. With the social outcry following the presentation of the plans of Rutte II, this might be more likely than not.
It only took 4 days since their inauguration for Rutte II to show their first cracks. After the debate in Parliament where they defended their proposed 4-year plans or cabinet-plans, a session of urgent consultation (spoedoverleg) was ordered to discuss the general opposition to their plans, including opposition from their respective party-members.
Sources: follow the hyperlinks as provided.