Parliamentary Chamber: Chambre des Représentants - Kamer van volks-vertegenwoordigers - Abgeordnetenkammer


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  Chambre des Représentants - Kamer van volks-vertegenwoordigers - Abgeordnetenkammer

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  18 May 2003

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in the House of Representatives on the normal expiry of the members' term of office.

Background and outcome of elections:

  In the May 2003 elections, Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's centre-left coalition of six parties - the Flemish and French-speaking Liberal Parties (VLD and MR), Socialist Parties (SP and PS) and Greens (Agalev and Ecolo) - was primarily opposed by the Christian Social Parties (CV&P, Flemish and PSC, French-speaking) and far-right parties (Vlaams Blok and National Front).

Ten days before polling day, the French-speaking Green Party quit the coalition in a row over night flights over Brussels.

The electoral campaign mainly focused on economic issues like tax cuts. With economic growth sluggish and unemployment high, Mr. Verhofstadt vowed to keep cutting taxes and reform state bureaucracy and an overburdened judiciary. He urged voters to judge his coalition on its handling of public finances and the economy, i.e. cutting taxes while balancing the budget for three years and reducing Europe's second highest per capita national debt. During the four years in government, the coalition had passed some of the world's most progressive social legislation, legalising gay marriage and euthanasia.

The Flemish far-right Vlaams Blok, which wants Flemish independence, campaigned for zero tolerance on crime and ending immigration. It expected to improve its score in Antwerp, the country's second city, where immigrants clashed with police in November 2002.

Some 7.5 million citizens were called to the poll. Despite the country's compulsory voting system, it was reported that up to 10 per cent of voters abstained from casting ballots in certain areas. Compulsory voting dates back to 1893 in Belgium, one of a handful of countries (Luxembourg, Australia, Cyprus and Uruguay) with such laws.

The Liberal Party and the Socialist Party registered gains in both parts of the linguistically divided country. The Socialists have made the biggest gains, both in terms of seats and votes. They won 15 additional seats. The Liberals have made lesser gains, winning 8 additional seats. However, overall, the family of Liberals obtained 49 seats, enough to put them just ahead of the Socialists with their 48 MPs. Together, the Liberals and Socialists have a total of 97 of the 150 seats.

The Christian-Socialists have recorded a slight decline, losing 3 seats. Their tally now stands at 8 seats.

The Vlaams Blok won the largest vote in its 25-year history winning 3 extra seats taking its tally to 18 seats. In the French-speaking southern region of Wallonia, the extreme-right National Front scored 5.2 per cent despite an almost invisible campaign boycotted by public broadcasters. Support for the Greens, who had been members of the outgoing coalition, collapsed, as they lost all nine seats in Flanders and seven out of 11 in Wallonia.

On 9 July 2003, the Liberal Party and the Socialist Party agreed to renew their coalition in government with Mr. Guy Verhofstadt as Prime Minister.

Round no 1 (18 May 2003): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 7 570 637
Voters 6 936 801 (91.63 %)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 364 612
Valid votes 6 572 189

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Votes %
Liberal Party (VLD) - Flemish 1 009 223 15.4
Socialist Party (PS)- Francophone 855 992 15.4
Movement for Reform (MR) - Francophone 748 952 11.4
Socialist Party - Spirit (SPA-Spirit) - Flemish 979 750 14.9
Christian Democratic (CDV) - Flemish 870 749 13.3
Vlaams Blok - Flemish 761 407 11.6
Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) - Francophone 359 660 5.5
New Flemish Alliance (NV-A) - Flemish 201 399 3.1
Greens (Ecolo) - Francophone 201 118 3.1
National Front (FN) - Francophone 130 012 2.0

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total Gain/Loss
Liberal Party (VLD) - Flemish 25 +2
Socialist Party (PS)- Francophone 25 +6
Movement for Reform (MR) - Francophone 24 +6
Socialist Party - Spirit (SPA-Spirit) - Flemish 23 +9
Christian Democratic (CDV) - Flemish 21 -1
Vlaams Blok - Flemish 18 +3
Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) - Francophone 8 -2
New Flemish Alliance (NV-A) - Flemish 1 +1
Greens (Ecolo) - Francophone 4 -7
National Front (FN) - Francophone 1 =

  The CDH is the new name of the former Social Christian Party (PSC)
The CDV is the new name of the former Christian People's Party (CVP)
The MR is the new name of the former Liberal Party - Walloon (PRL-FDF)
Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 97
Women: 53
Percent of women: 35.33

Distribution of seats according to age:  
21 to 30 years : 9
31 to 40 years: 35
41 to 50 years: 60
51 to 60 years: 35
61 to 70 years: 11

Distribution of seats according to profession:

Liberal professions: 42
Private sector employees: 34
Teachers: 28
Civil servants (incl. former): 21
Self-employed: 14
Non-professionals: 8
Journalists/writers/publishers: 3

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