The Low Countries: From ‘Prime Minister’ The Low Countries: From ‘Prime Minister’ to President‐Minister

Stefaan Fiers and André Krouwel

in The Presidentialization of Politics

Published in print March 2005 | ISBN: 9780199252015
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602375 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

The Low Countries: From ‘Prime Minister’ The Low Countries: From ‘Prime Minister’ to President‐Minister

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Historically, both Belgium and the Netherlands are archetypes of ‘consociational democracies’. These are characterized by broad multi-party coalitions, numerous power-sharing devices, and fragile checks and balances in order to ensure due influence for all relevant parties and minority groups. Hence, the overarching logic of these consensus democracies seems to represent an obstacle to a process of presidentialization.

However, we argue that the need for strong leadership resulted in more prominent and powerful positions for the (parliamentary) party leaders and Prime Ministers. We present evidence of a process of presidentialization that gained momentum a decade earlier in the Netherlands (from the 1970s onwards) than it did in Belgium (from the 1980s).

It is interesting to note that the increased autonomy of Prime Ministers is not due to constitutional amendments, but tends to be linked to the increased decision-making role for the inner cabinet, the professionalization of the Prime Minister’s Office, and the growing attention the audiovisual media give to the Prime Minister.

Similarly, parliamentary party leaders in The Netherlands and extra-parliamentary party leaders in Belgium grew stronger through an accumulation of power and resources at the leader’s office, personalized campaigning and a centralization of control over inner party selection procedures, and party leadership selection.

Keywords: The Netherlands; Belgium; prime ministers; party leaders; party leadership; extra-parliamentary party leaders; elections; electoral campaigns; personalized campaigning; preference voting

Chapter.  13918 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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