The collapse of prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s fourth government means new elections will probably be held within the next three months.
On Monday, queen Beatrix will begin consulting her advisors and the main party leaders about what steps should be taken to ensure smooth government until a new coalition government is elected.
Most likely is that Christian Democrat and ChristenUnie ministers will stay on in a caretaker role and temporary replacements will be found for the 12 Labour ministers and junior ministers.
Once queen Beatrix has signed the official declaration that the coalition government has been dissolved, the new election campaign can begin.
Unless the monarch agrees otherwise, elections must be held within 83 days. Political parties have 40 days to finalise their list of candidates – the Netherlands does not have a constituency based system and MPs are chosen on the basis of party lists.
Once the lists have been drawn up, there is a maximum 43 period for the formal campaign and vote itself. Eight days after the election, the new parliament will meet for the first time.
How to form a new government
Once the votes have been counted, the actual process of forming a new government can begin.
With a majority government requiring at least 76 of the 150 seats in parliament, forming a coalition can be a tricky business. It is a process which takes months: the longest cabinet formation took 208 days, the shortest just 10.
Queen Beatrix will first consults the party leaders, her own advisors and other senior politicians and appoint an informateur – the person charged with putting together a tentative coalition. The informateur sounds out the party leaders about potential coalitions and reports back to the queen.
Once a potential coalition has been identified, the queen will name a formateur. The formateur (usually the next prime minister) does the nitty gritty job of putting together a coalition agreement, or regeerakkord, in which the broad lines of new government policy are set down.
When all that has been finalised, ministers are appointed and the new government is finally sworn in.