After the Union of Utrecht (Unie van Utrecht, 1579), it was not until 1798 that a modern written constitution was adopted in the recently formed Batavian Republic. The French con stitutions served as a model. Parliamentwas divided into two cham bers. The constitution provided for a strong executive and had a cen tralizing tendency. Separation between church and state, proclaimed in 1796, was maintained, as was the Declaration of Fundamental Rightsof 1795. All men were considered equal in the eyes of the law, but the right to vote was granted only to financially solvent males 20 years of age and older.
   Later, the tendency toward decentralization after 1801 and new forms of government required new constitutions (under RutgerJan Schimmelpenninck in 1805 and King Louis Napoleon in 1806). The constitution for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1815 pro vided rules for a strong personal monarchy. Parliament, the States General, was at that time divided into two chambers with rather lim ited powers, the members of the First Chamber being appointed for life by the king, and those of the Second Chamber being elected by the provincial States. The Second Chamber had the right to introduce bills, although its budgetary power was limited because the normal budget was voted for 10 years.
   Revisions of the constitution after 1840 tended to enlarge the in fluence of Parliament over the executive, with the right to vote grad ually extended. The constitutional revision of the revolutionary year 1848 marked a Liberal victory over autocracy: the Second Chamber was endowed with the rights of amendment of bills and parliamen tary inquiry, and the budget was to be passed every year. Since 1868, the monarchy has been parliamentarily constitutional in prac tice; the monarch dismisses a minister or cabinet that has no major ity in Parliament. The personal and political rights of the citizens have been extended over time, granting the right to associate, free dom of speech, and freedom of the pressand banning all kinds of dis crimination. In 1917 and 1919, universal suffragewas introduced for men and women, respectively (age 23 and older). The constitution’s text has been adapted and modernized several times, in 1983 quite fundamentally; the death penalty was constitutionally forbidden then. The last revision dates from 2002.

Historical Dictionary of the Netherlands. . 2012.


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