State Structure and Political System of Belgium
According to topschoolsintheusa, Belgium is a country of federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The Constitution adopted on February 7, 1831 is in force. The last changes were made on July 14, 1993 (the parliament approved a constitutional package of laws on the creation of a federal state).
Administrative division: 3 regions (Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels metropolitan area) and 10 provinces (Antwerp, West Flanders, East Flanders, Vlaams-Brabant, Limburg, Brabant-Walloon, Hainaut, Liege, Namur, Luxembourg). The largest cities (2000): Brussels, Antwerp (932 thousand people), Liege (586 thousand people), Charleroi (421 thousand people).
The principles of public administration are based on the separation of powers. The supreme legislative body is the bicameral Parliament, which includes the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies (elections to these bodies take place simultaneously every 4 years). The Senate consists of 71 members (40 are elected by direct popular vote, 31 by indirect). The Chamber of Deputies (150 seats) is elected on the basis of proportional representation by direct voting. In the 1999 elections, the Senate included representatives of 10 political parties, the Chamber of Deputies – 11.
The head of state is King Albert II (he ascended the throne on August 9, 1993), his heir is Prince Philip. The head of government (i.e. the executive branch) and members of his cabinet are appointed by the king (usually from representatives of the parties leading in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies). They are then approved by the legislature (i.e. parliament). As a result of constitutional changes (dated July 14, 1993), Belgium has become a federal state, within which there are three levels of government (federal, regional and linguistic-communal) with a clear delineation of powers and responsibilities.
Judicial power is based on case law. Judges are appointed by the king for life, but are selected by the government of the country.
At the head of the current government coalition, which is usually referred to in the Western press as the “rainbow six”, is the representative of the Flemish Liberal Democratic Party (VLD) G. Verhofstadt. In the 1999 elections, she received 15.4% of the vote in the Senate and 14.3% in the Chamber of Deputies. This is followed by the Francophone Socialist Party (PS) – 9.7 and 10.2%, the two Green Parties – ECOLO (Wallonia) – 7.4 and 7.4% and AGALEF (Flanders) – 7.1 and 7.0%, etc.
The electoral system and socio-political structure of Belgium are characterized by a number of features. First of all, there is a very characteristic European set of political parties in the country (Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, Liberal Democrats and Greens), but the problem is that a large number of non-traditional parties are active, many of which are not represented in the legislature, because they could not overcome the 5% barrier of the required number of votes received. Moreover, the traditional parties turned out to be too small to provide a solid representation.
This situation has developed due to the fact that in recent decades there has been a process of serious federalization of socio-political life, replacing the former essentially unitary nature of the state structure with a predominance of the Francophone minority. During this period, almost all national Belgian parties in the country were divided along linguistic and communal lines (Flemish and Walloon). This led to the fact that at least a dozen relatively small parties began to enter the legislative bodies of the country. To create a government coalition, they are forced to recruit at least half a dozen partners of various social and public orientations. Reaching agreement in such alliances therefore becomes a very difficult problem.
Another feature of the socio-political structure can be seen quite clearly in the growing gap in the results of popular elections at the federal, regional and local levels. For example, the far-right Flemish party Flaams Block (VB) won only 5.6% of the vote in federal elections (it was not included in the government coalition). But in the elections in large Flemish cities, its figures were several times higher (in Ghent – about 20%, and in Antwerp – 33%). This nationalist party opposes not only the influx of immigrants into the country, but also the financial subsidization of Wallonia at the expense of the growing economy of Flanders. It is clear that under such conditions the federal vertical of power cannot always function effectively enough.
Many other public organizations and elements of civil society are also fairly clearly divided along regional lines. But a very definite exception is seen in the business sphere. The country’s trade unions are not united, but they are divided along religious lines. There are Christian and socialist trade union associations. There is a single influential Federation of Belgian Industrialists, as well as numerous industry associations (banking, insurance, etc.).