To what extent are the priorities of voters reflected by the policy pledges of parties? And how decisive are party pledges for the policy-making of governments? The chain of delegation assumes direct linkages between voters, parties and governments, of which the voters are the principal actor. When this assumption is tested for The Netherlands, it turns out that parties are not very responsive to voter priorities and that the policy distances between parliamentary parties and governments are relatively small. This pattern makes sense in a consensus democracy in which parties have to compromise and cannot afford simply to reflect what voters perceive as important. It also suggests that the mandate theory is more directly applicable to majoritarian democracies, where the winner takes all and therefore has more scope to translate voter priorities into policy-making.