Besides the culture of governance, almost no other word has been used as much at the Binnenhof as dualism in recent weeks. It was often discussed in the debate with the former scouts, the procedure of appointing a new President of the Chamber. Informer Herman Tjeenk Willink gave it an important role in his first press conference.
The reason was, among other things, the payment affair, in which the cabinet opposed critical MPs. But the disclosure of the scout note with the words “position Omtzigt, function elsewhere” and the debate on it really strengthened the call for dualism.
MPs should not be discussed during a cabinet formation, was widely supported criticism. The fact that Prime Minister Rutte and the scouts were talking about it at all was the example of the distorted relationship between power and counter-power in the Chamber.
In order to strengthen this counter-power, we need more dualism, the political consensus seems to be. This will enable the Chamber to control the government better. But what is dualism and how can it be promoted?
Dualism vs. Monism
You have two kinds of dualism, says professor of political science Tom van der Meer of the UvA. The first is political dualism: “That is the different division of roles between coalition parties and opposition parties.” However, the current discussion is more about institutional dualism, the difference in role between the cabinet and the House of Representatives. The Cabinet rules, the House of Representatives controls.
linked to the discussion of power and counter-power: to what extent are the tasks of the government and the representation of the people? If there is little talk of this, that is, if the cooperation between the Cabinet and the coalition parties in the Chamber is very strong, then it is a matter of monism.
“ Dualism has never been really strong in the Netherlands in the last hundred years, but in recent decades the cabinet and Chamber have grown more towards each other”, says Van der Meer. “Coalition agreements have become increasingly detailed over the past forty years. In the formation agreements are made which each coalition party conforms to for four years.”
result, politicians are less concerned with controlling the government. Critics also disrespectfully speak of the fact that MPs from coalition parties have become voting cattle, which signs at the cross.
Informer Herman Tjeenk Willink also spoke yesterday about more dualism. This can be achieved by a smaller coalition agreement:
Political scientist Simon Otjes of Leiden University wants to nuance that image. Compared to other countries, the system in the Netherlands is quite dualistic: “In fact, almost only in America you have a strict separation between government and parliament. But in Germany it is not even customary for members of coalition parties to ask parliamentary questions, and in France Parliament has little influence.”
According to Otjes, dualism has already increased over the last ten years: “Because the cabinet has often not had a majority in the First Chamber, it operates as a minority cabinet, making matters from the coalition agreement negotiable for the opposition.” As an example, he cited the intention to abolish the dividend tax. That was stated in the coalition agreement, but eventually did not go on after pressure from the opposition.
Tom van der Meer thinks that minority cabins can be good for dualism: “Because a majority has to be sought on every subject, the Chamber is less responsible for the cabinet policy as a whole. And this creates more room for control.”
Van der Meer believes that a coalition agreement on the main lines further contributes to the control of the cabinet, because this way there is less pre-cooked and the opposition can exert more influence. Simon Otjes thinks that different interests of political parties are preventing that:
“ For the VVD, a coalition agreement would be fine, because there is a right-wing majority in the House of Representatives. But from D66 it is understandable to want to make more agreements in advance, so that their points are not too much at stake.”
Apart from rules and agreements, a great responsibility lies with the parties and MPs themselves, emphasises Van der Meer. It needs to be made more aware that democracy will serve precisely when the roles are separated better: “You can create parliamentary levers, but ultimately it is about culture and behavior.”
According to Otjes, this is not enough: “Opposition parties are often too small to exercise proper control over all dossiers.” For Otjes, for example, it was noticed which portfolios Christenunion member Don Ceder were assigned to all of them. There are eight of them, and certainly not light ones, “Thats almost superhuman.”
And so Otjes argues for a larger parliament. “The Dutchparliament is to resident much smaller than average parliaments in other countries. If you want to straighten that out, you need about a hundred extra MPs here.”
Ideally, you have at least one parliamentarian per ministry per party, says Otjes. There are 12 ministries. Now only four parties have at least 12 seats, with 250 parliamentarians that would be eight parties. A call to change culture alone has been heard for decades, but is not enough, he notes: “It is important that we change the structure so that MPs can do their job better.”