Discussion over Brussels district topples government

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Election Date: June 13, 2010

At stake: Federal Parliament

Background

Today, Belgium is one of the most prosperous members of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Independent since 1830, the country was invaded by Germany during both World War I and World War II.

Belgium was one of the first countries to develop an industrial culture and economy in Europe, and was a strong colonizing power in Western Africa in the early 20th century. In 1960, the Belgian Congo gained its independence, but the European country remained involved in Central African affairs for many years. In 1962, Ruanda-Urundi—now Rwanda and Burundi—gained independence from Belgium as well.

Belgium is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. Parliament is composed of two legislative houses, a Chamber of Representatives with 150 seats and a 72-member Senate.

The King is the head of state and the prime minister the head of government. Voting is compulsory in Belgium.

The country is evidently divided in two: the northern region is inhabited by the Flemish-speaking Flemings, who make-up most of Belgium’s population of 10.4 million; the French-speaking Walloons inhabit the south. A small German-speaking community is located in the East. Flemish, French and German are all official languages.

During the 1970s, tensions between Flemings and Walloons increased. Under the 1993 revision of the constitution, Belgium became a federation with three main regions, each one autonomous and with its own “language community”: Flemish North, French South and the German region. Bilingual Brussels is the federal capital.

In 1993, Albert II took over as monarch after the death King Baudouin. The current government has been in office since 1999. Prime minister Guy Verhofstadt of the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) leads an alliance that includes the Socialist Party Difference (SP.A) / Spirit, the Reformist Movement (MR) and the Socialist Party (PS). In May 2003, Verhofstadt earned a new mandate in the legislative ballot.

Click here for Belgium’s 2003 Federal Parliament Election Tracker

Among other things, Verhofstadt’s government has passed laws that legalized same-sex marriage and euthanasia, as well as the decriminalization of marijuana possession and a bill that allows foreign residents to vote in federal elections.

Belgium is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. It is a key state in European integration. NATO headquarters are located in Belgium and since 2000 all European Council meetings are officially held in Brussels, Belgium’s capital city. Over 20,000 civil servants from all over Europe currently live in or around Brussels.

In June 2007, a federal election took place in Belgium. Final results gave the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CDV) / New Flemish Alliance (NVA) 30 seats in the Chamber of People’s Representatives. The election sparked a major political crisis, as CVD/NVA leader Yves Leterme failed to assemble a government.

Click Here for Belgium’s 2007 Federal Parliament Election Tracker

The aftermath of the election saw a long period of political instability, including suggestions that the country would split up along linguistic lines. It took nine months for political parties to assemble a coalition government.

In December 2007, outgoing prime minister Guy Verhofstadt was given a mandate to form an interim government. On Dec. 21, Verhofstadt presented his cabinet, which included finance minister Didier Reynders and interior minister Patrick Dewael. This administration was to remain in office until Mar. 23, 2008.

On Mar. 20, 2008, King Albert II appointed Leterme as prime minister. The CDV/NVA leader headed a coalition government that included the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) / Vivant (V), the Socialist Party (PS), the Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) and the Reformist Movement (MR).

2010 Federal Parliament Election

On Apr. 22, the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) left the governing coalition over disagreements on how to deal with the boundaries of the electoral arrondissement of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, a bilingual area surrounding Brussels.

Prime minister Yves Leterme tendered his resignation, prompting a new legislative election.

Leterme also resigned as leader of the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CDV) party, saying, “Somebody must shoulder this responsibility; I’m shouldering it.” Marianne Thyssen, CDV chairwoman and vice-chair of the European People’s Party (EPP), will lead the CDV into the next ballot.

Judges from different courts are currently discussing the viability of the upcoming election due to the ongoing disagreements over the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde electoral arrondissement.

Belgium is set to take on the presidency of the European Union (EU) on Jul. 1.

On May 27, Leterme gave assurances that the upcoming legislative election “does not at all prevent this government from preparing this [EU] presidency in depth.”

Political Players

King
: Albert II
Prime Minister
: Yives Leterme – CDV/NVA

Legislative Branch: The Federale Parlement / Parlement Fédérale / Foederales Parlament (Federal Parliament) has two chambers. The Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers / Chambre des Représentants / Abgeordnetenkammer(Chamber of People’s Representatives) has 150 members, elected to four-year terms by proportional representation. The Senaat / Sénat / Senat (Senate) has 71 members. 40 members are elected to four-year terms by proportional representation, and 31 are then picked by the elected members.

Results of Last Election
:

Chamber of People’s Representatives – Jun. 10, 2007

Vote% Seats
Christian Democratic and Flemish (CDV)
/ New Flemish Alliance (NVA)
18.51% 30
Reformist Movement (MR) 12.52% 23
Flemish Interest (VB) 11.99% 17
Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD)
/ Vivant (V)
11.83% 18
Socialist Party (PS) 10.86% 20
Socialist Party Difference (SP.A) / Spirit 10.26% 14
Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) 6.06% 10
Ecolo (E) 5.10% 8
List Dedecker 4.03% 5
Greens! (Groen!) 3.98% 4
National Front (FN) 1.97% 1

Senate – Jun. 10, 2007

Vote%

Seats

Christian Democratic and Flemish (CDV)
/ New Flemish Alliance (NVA)
19.42% 9
Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD)
/ Vivant (V)
12.40% 5
Reformist Movement (MR) 12.31% 6
Flemish Interest (VB) 11.89% 5
Socialist Party (PS) 10.24% 4
Socialist Party Difference (SP.A) / Spirit 10.04% 4
Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) 5.90% 2
Ecolo (E) 5.82% 2
Greens! (Groen!) 3.64% 1
List Dedecker 3.38% 1
National Front (FN) 2.27% 1
Indirectly elected senators 31