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To resign or to stay on? A study into Dutch members of government who were under political attack (1918 - 2002)

This research will result in a double dissertation. For this purpose, the research has been divided into two clearly defined parts. Charlotte Brand will research the period 1918-1967 and Anne Bos the period 1967-2002.

Anyone who is a member of government has to be prepared to confer and compromise in order to achieve the desired political results. But what if a political conflict escalates and a minister is faced with the choice of resigning or staying on? Which agents and factors influence this decision and how? Our research focuses on one main question: who decides, and based on which grounds, whether a member of government has to leave or is allowed to stay?

A minister in the Netherlands is not only in charge of a department, but also a member of a coalition cabinet. This coalition is often but a brittle construction of different parties who, only when working together, can count on the support of parliament. Therefore, the political crisis of an individual, the – imminent– resignation of a minister, leads to great political tension. After all, the departure of one individual could endanger the continuation of the whole coalition.

There are no laws in the Netherlands which state when a member of government has to go. Although two political principles apply, the principle of ministerial responsibility and the principle of confidence, exactly how these principles are applied is open to interpretation. The political life of a member of government therefore depends on the dynamics of how politics is practised. This research provides an insight into the political practice in the twentieth century and of the changes in political culture.