The Belgian Government and Politics in Belgium

Belgium’s rich linguistic and cultural background shapes its complex political scene. Being a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, the country’s federal, regional, and linguistic community entities share power. Belgium’s lively political environment is fueled by its multi-party system and EU influence.

Belgium’s political system and governing body

Belgium is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy.. This means that the Belgian King is a symbolic leader and the Prime Minister and federal government hold the actual power in the country.

The Belgian federal parliament consists of two chambers: just as it does in many Western democracies. There is a Chamber of Representatives and a Senate. The members of these two chambers are voted in by the Belgian population.

Belgium’s Political Representation

The Senate and the 150-member Chamber of Representatives make up the bicameral Belgian Federal Parliament (60 members). The Senate is made up of senators from the regional parliaments and linguistic community parliaments, whereas the Chamber of Representatives is chosen using a proportional representation system.

Communities and Regions

Belgium’s political system is further complicated, however, but the way the country is split up into communities and regions. These areas are given specific autonomy to help solve language, cultural, and geographical differences that are strongly present in the country.

For example, there are three regions in Belgium (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Capital) as well as three official languages. Each of the relevant parts of the country then get to organise relevant issues locally such as education and culture for the language communities and employment, agriculture, environment, energy, housing and even foreign trade for the regions.

This is quite a special set up that only a country with Belgium’s history and structure has.

First state reform in 1970

Many of these language and regional differences came into being during the first tensions between the Dutch-speaking Flanders and the French-speaking Wallonia led to the first state change in 1970. It was at this time that the three language communities were founded, and the decentralization and federalization processes were started as well.

All of this lead to the complex political structure that is present in Belgium today.

Belgian government’s major political parties

The political landscape of Belgium is multi-party, with the major parties split along linguistic lines. Important political parties are:

  • New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) – Flemish nationalist, conservative
  • Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) – Flemish, Christian democratic
  • Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld) – Flemish, liberal
  • Socialist Party (PS) – Walloon, social-democratic
  • Reformist Party (MR) – Walloon, liberal

Belgium and the European Union

Belgium was a key contributor to the development of EU policy as a founding member of the organization. The European Commission, the European Council, and the European Parliament are all located in Brussels, the EU’s capital city, which serves as its de facto seat of government.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have the right to vote in Belgian elections?

Elections for the federal, regional, and European levels are open to Belgian citizens who are 18 years of age and older. Elections in Europe and locally are open to EU residents living in Belgium, but not federal or regional elections. Residents of non-EU countries must apply for Belgian citizenship in order to vote.

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