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Abstract. To what extent are the contents of party election programmes congruent with subsequent government policy actions? Existing research on the fulfilment of pre–election pledges focuses on systems of government in which executives formed by a single parties are the norm. This study extends this research to coalition systems of government. Specific policy proposals made by the main Dutch parties in their recent election programmes are identified and compared with subsequent government policy actions. Hypotheses about the conditions under which pledges are more likely to be acted upon are formulated and tested. Although clear linkages between election programmes and subsequent policies are found, pledges made by prospective coalition parties in the Netherlands are less likely to be acted upon than those made by prospective governing parties in the United Kingdom. Prominent features of cabinet government, such as the allocation of ministerial portfolios and the coalition policy agreement, are found to influence the likelihood of pledges being fulfilled. In addition, consensus between parties is also found to increase the likelihood of government actions responding to election pledges.