Belgian Federal Parliament

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The Belgian Federal Parliament is a bicameral parliament. It consists of the Chamber of Representatives (Dutch: Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers, French: la Chambre des Représentants) and the Senate (Dutch: de Senaat, French: le Sénat).

Contents

The Chamber of Representatives

Main article: Belgian Chamber of Representatives.

The number of seats in the Chamber is constitutionally set at 150 elected from 20 electoral districts. Each district is given a number of seats proportional to its population (not number of voters) ranging from 4 for the Luxembourg district to 22 for Brussels. The districts are divided along linguistic lines: 10 Flemish, 9 Walloon, and the bilingual district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde. Eligibility requirements for the Chamber are a minimum age of 21, citizenship, and residency in Belgium. All districts have an electoral threshold of 5%, except for Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, Walloon Brabant and Leuven; all districts are monolingual, except for Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde which encompasses both the 19 bilingual municipalities from the Brussels-Capital region as some 35 Dutch-speaking municipalities in Flemish Brabant, incl. 6 with linguistic facilities for French-speakers.

The major parties in the Lower House are the Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten and the Parti Socialiste, each with 25 seats; the Mouvement Réformateur with 24 seats; the alliance between the Socialistische Partij - Anders and SPIRIT with 23 seats; the Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams with 21 seats; and the far right Vlaams Blok.

The francophone Green Party has four seats, while the moderate Flemish nationalist N-VA and the francophone far right both have one deputy. The President of the Lower House is Herman De Croo (VLD).

Senate

Main article: Belgian Senate.

The Senate consists of 71 seats. For electoral purposes Senators are divided into four categories: directly elected; appointed by the community assemblies; co-opted Senators; and Senators of Law ("Senatoren van rechtswege", in Dutch). For the election of the 25 Flemish and 15 francophone directly elected Senators, the country is divided into three electoral districts. Of the Senators representing the communities, 10 are elected by the Flemish Council, 10 by the French Council, and 1 by the German-language Council.

The third category, the co-opted Senators, consists of 10 representatives elected by the first two groups of Senators. Eligibility requirements for the Senate are identical to those for the Chamber.

The final category, that of Senators of Law, consists of those members of the Royal Family that are direct children of the reigning King and eligible to the throne. In the past, until 1991, these could only be men, since women couldn't be heir to the throne before that day. At this time, however, this is no longer true; and at this time, Princess Astrid, Prince Filip, and Prince Laurent exercise their constitutional right for a seat in the Senate. It must be noted however that since the Royal Family is supposed to be neutral, an unwritten law states that Senators of Law should not participate in Senate votes, even though they officially have the right to do so.

In other words, the Princes and Princesses of the royal line are full members of the Senate: Prince Philippe, Princess Astrid and Prince Laurent sit in the Senate.

The President of the Senate is Armand De Decker (PRL).

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