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How the government works

The government is for everyone and belongs to everyone, always and everywhere. From registering a birth to organising a funeral, from getting people into theatres to fighting serious crime. It takes measures on countless matters, enacts laws and enforces compliance with them. Sometimes it only sets down general conditions. It leaves wage negotiations, for instance, to employers and trade unions. And it allows organisations or groups of parents to set up a school, under certain conditions.

The government is the highest authority in a country. The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy, and parliament therefore has the last word. It has an elected government and a head of state, the king or queen. It is divided at regional level into provinces, each with its own council, executive and King's Commissioner. At local level it is divided into municipalities, each with its own council and executive (mayor and aldermen). Tens of thousands of people work in the public sector. Some of them prepare policy and legislation, others deliver it (e.g. the police, the army and teachers in state schools).

The basic structure of government is set down in the Constitution, which also deals with citizens' rights vis-à-vis the government and the government's duties towards its citizens.

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