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Chambre des Représentants (House of Representatives)

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Parliament name (generic / translated) Parlement fédéral - Federaal Parlement - Föderales Parlament / Federal Parliament
Structure of parliament Bicameral
Chamber name (generic / translated) Chambre des Représentants / House of Representatives
Related chamber (for bicameral parliaments) Sénat - Senaat - Senat / Senate
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 13 June 2010
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all the seats in the House of Representatives following the early dissolution of this body on 6 May 2010. Elections to the House of Representatives had previously taken place on 10 June 2007.
Elections were held on 13 June 2010 after the coalition government collapsed in April following a prolonged political crisis that had ensued in the aftermath of the previous elections held on 10 June 2007. They took place 12 months before the term of the legislature ended. On 6 May, the House of Representatives and the Senate adopted a declaration on the need for constitutional review, a procedure necessary for the dissolution of parliament. The publication of the review in the Belgian Moniteur (official gazette) led to both Houses being dissolved.

At stake were all 150 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 directly elected seats in the Senate.

Belgium is a country of 10.8 million inhabitants divided into three communities: the French, the Flemish and the German-speaking communities. It is composed of three regions: Wallonia (32.5% of the population), the Brussels-Capital region (9.7%) and Flanders (57.8%). The communities and regions have specific responsibilities. Belgium is furthermore composed of four linguistic regions: the French-speaking region, the Dutch-speaking region, the bilingual Brussels-Capital region and the German-speaking region.

In the 10 June 2007 elections, the Christian Democratic and Flemish-New Flemish Alliance (comprising the CD&V, led by Mr. Yves Leterme, and the N-VA, led by Mr. Bart De Wever), became the largest group in both chambers after campaigning notably for institutional reform and greater autonomy for the communities. It took 30 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives and nine of the 40 directly elected seats in the Senate. The parties in the coalition government of then Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt saw their share fall. The government, which comprised two Flemish parties - Mr. Verhofstadt's Open Vld and the Flemish Socialist Party-Spirit alliance (sp.a-Spirit, see note 1) - and two French-speaking parties - the Movement for Reform (MR) and the Socialist Party (PS), was forced to resign.

Following 196 days during which several attempts to form a government failed, an emergency interim government comprising five parties (the Open Vld, the MR, the CD&V, the PS and the cdH) was finally formed on 21 December 2007 under the leadership of Mr. Guy Verhofstadt. Its main task was to pass the 2008 budget. It won a vote of confidence on 23 December 2007 and Mr. Leterme was appointed Deputy Prime Minister. Although he was in charge of the budget portfolio, he led talks on institutional reform with other parties with a view to forming a new government. On 20 March 2008, Mr. Leterme was appointed Prime Minister and received a mandate to form a coalition government composed of the same parties as the interim government. On assuming the post, he announced that his government would devolve more federal powers to regional governments by 15 July 2008 (see note 2). After failing to meet the deadline, Mr. Leterme tendered his resignation to the King, which the latter did not accept.

The 2008 global economic crisis that severely affected the world banking system also hit the Belgian financial group Fortis. Mr. Leterme's government tried to resolve the crisis by selling Fortis to the French bank BNP Paribas. Several shareholders opposed the move and took the case to the court. On 12 December, the Appeal Court delivered its ruling, following which the President of the Appeal Court sent a letter to the House Speaker, informing him that attempts had been made to pressure the Appeal Court judges over the case. Prime Minister Leterme dismissed the allegations but admitted that one of his officials had contacted the judges. He nevertheless tendered his resignation to the King on 19 December, which was accepted. The then House Speaker, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy (CD&V), succeeded him as Prime Minister on 30 December 2008. Mr. Leterme was appointed Foreign Minister on 17 July 2009.

In November 2009, Mr. Van Rompuy was elected the first permanent President of the European Council and subsequently resigned as Prime Minister. Mr. Leterme once again became Prime Minister on 25 November 2009. However, his second government was forced to resign after the Open Vld, led by Mr. Alexander De Croo since October 2009, withdrew from the coalition on 22 April 2010 over a long-standing dispute about voting rights in the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constituency (see note 3).

The major issues in the 2010 elections were economic recovery and improved public finances, in addition to institutional reform in Belgium, and in particular, the federal political system adopted following a number of institutional reforms.

In 2010, the Flemish parties that had formed an alliance for the 2007 elections - the CD&V and the N-VA - contested the elections separately. The Open Vld-sp.a, led by Caroline Gennez, Groen! (the Flemish green party), the Vlaams Belang and the List Dedecker also fielded candidates. All Dutch-speaking parties were in favour of State reform and greater autonomy for the various regions and communities. In the French-speaking part of the country, the PS of Mr. Elio Di Rupo, the MR of Mr. Didier Reynders, the cdH of Ms. Joëlle Milquet, the Ecolo (Greens), led by Jean-Michel Javaux and the PP, led by Mischaël Modrikamen, ran for the elections. They were keen to maintain a strong centralized federal government.

The programme of the N-VA, led by Mr. Bart De Wever, proposed to invest the regions and communities with considerable autonomy and limit the power of the federal government to essential areas such as defence and foreign relations. The judiciary and social security would be devolved to the regional and community governments. The party proposed to gradually reduce the powers of the federal government and in parallel, enhance its integration into Europe. It aimed to maintain the competitiveness of companies and supported certain proposals made by employers' organizations.

The CD&V, led since 2008 by Ms. Marianne Thyseen, also advocated reform via a redistribution of power among the federal government, the communities and the regions while maintaining adequate funding to ensure the proper running of the federal government. Its programme sought to foster an economic upturn through concerted social policy and focusing on the family.

The PS pledged to be part of a federal government that was capable of tackling economic problems and the serious social crisis without being bogged down by institutional handicaps. PS leader Di Rupo promised to initiate a constructive dialogue with the parties in the north in order to find a negotiated solution to the country's institutional problems, thereby improving the lives of citizens and creating a stable federal State. In addition to promoting job creation and making health care accessible to all, the party aimed to implement fairer taxation with a view to achieving a lasting social pact.

The MR called for reform in order to guarantee security, modernize the judicial system and make public administration more efficient and able to better serve citizens and companies. This party considered that institutional reform should not be an end in itself. It could be justified if it added value in terms of good governance and improved the daily life of citizens. The MR's programme aimed to guarantee a job for each citizen, support entrepreneurs and put in place a genuinely European and economically sound government.
The sp.a pledged to combat tax fraud and boost employment, in particular for youth and unskilled persons. It provided for measures to guarantee that the pension system remained in place and to raise the lowest incomes.

The Open Vld called for reforms to the political system that would make it less costly and more democratic. It aimed to improve the State budget and foster a more competitive economy without raising taxes. Moreover, it called for the regions to gradually take on further financial responsibilities and greater fiscal autonomy.

The far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) party, led by Mr. Bruno Valkeniers, confirmed its ultimate objective of an independent Flanders, and was opposed to the immigration of persons who refused to integrate and did not respect the fundamental values of Belgian society. It pledged to actively combat the problem of illegal immigrants.

The programmes of the Ecolo and Groen! parties, which are part of the same parliamentary group in the House, focused on promoting sustainable development and environmental protection and combating climate change. They were in favour of greater solidarity at the global level, migrant mobility and better procedures for facilitating migrants' stay in the country. They were willing to help find a new institutional balance with a view to emerging in a lasting manner from the community conflicts and giving priority to urgent economic, social and environmental matters.

The cdH called for a new pact among Belgians to emerge from their institutional crisis. They also called for an ambitious jobs pact and sustainable economic and human growth to recover from the economic crisis. They appealed for unity to achieve this goal.

In all, 89.22 per cent of the 7.7 million registered voters turned out at the polls. Voting is compulsory in Belgium. The final results for the House of Representatives gave the N-VA 27 seats, up from eight. The CD&V saw its share drop from 23 to 17 seats, and the Vlaams Belang from 16 to 12. The PS increased its share from 20 to 26 seats and the sp.a took 13, the same number as the Open Vld and Ecolo-Groen! The MR and the cdH took 18 and nine seats respectively and the remainder went to small parties.

In the Senate elections, the N-VA came first, winning nine of the 40 seats at stake. The CD&V and the Open Vld-sp.a took four seats each, with Vlaams Belang copping three and Groen! one seat. The PS came in second with seven seats, followed by the MR with four and the cdH and Ecolo with two seats each.

On 6 July, the members of the House of Representatives were sworn in alongside the 40 directly elected senators. On 20 July, the House of Representatives elected Mr. André Flahaut (PS) as its new Speaker. On 13 July, 21 senators designated by the Community Parliaments (see note 4) took office while 10 co-opted members (see note 5) were sworn in on 20 July. On the same day, the Senate elected Mr. Danny Pieters (N-VA) as its President.

Negotiations for the formation of a new government have remained at a standstill ever since. On 16 May 2011, King Albert II mandated Mr. Di Rupo (PS) to form a government and instructed him to do everything that was necessary to that end. Meanwhile, Mr. Leterme's outgoing government remains in office and is invested with the requisite powers to run the country in collaboration with the Federal Parliament.

Note 1:
The Spirit party, which had been in alliance with the Flemish Socialist Party in the 2007 elections, merged with the Flemish Greens (Groen!) in December 2009 and ceased to exist.

Note 2:
Between 1970 and 1993, Belgium evolved into a federal State.

In broad terms, the federal government is responsible for matters concerning finance, the army, the judicial system, social security, foreign affairs, a large share of public health and internal affairs, social protection laws (unemployment, pensions, family allowances, and health and disability insurance), the public debt, monetary policy, pricing and salary policy, savings, nuclear power, State-owned enterprises and federal cultural and scientific organizations. The federal government is also responsible for Belgium's and its federated states' relations with the European Union and NATO.

The regions are responsible for areas that affect them directly. For example, the Flemish region, the Brussels-Capital region and Wallonia are responsible for matters such as the economy, employment, agriculture, water policy, housing, public works, energy, transport (except the SNCB (national railway company), the environment, planning and urban development, nature conservation, credit, external trade, trusteeship of provinces, communes and intercommunal relations. They are also responsible for scientific research and international relations in the above-mentioned areas.

Belgium is composed of three communities: the French community, the Flemish community and the German-speaking community. The community is based on the notion of "language" and is therefore linked to the persons living there. They are responsible for culture (theatre, libraries, audiovisual works, etc.), teaching, the use of languages and community-specific areas (health policy, public assistance, youth protection, social benefits, family benefits, assistance for newly-arrived immigrants, etc.). They are also responsible for scientific research and international relations in the above-mentioned areas.

For some time now, the communities have been calling for greater autonomy, particularly in the north of the country, where the economy performs better and the per-capita income is higher than in the south. State finances and the public finances of the regions and communities are blamed: Flanders considers that it sends more money out than it keeps for its own use. Proposals have been made to finance the regions and communities based on their own tax revenues while maintaining a system of solidarity. Some call for a change to a confederal system.

Note 3:
The constituency of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) comprises the capital, Brussels, and the 25 Flemish municipalities surrounding it that are part of Flanders, although some communes close to Brussels have a special language arrangement for their French-speaking inhabitants. This is the only electoral district in Belgium where Flemish and French-speaking political parties compete directly with each other. The Flemish parties attempted to amend the electoral law in order to create a monolingual constituency in Halle-Vilvoorde and a bilingual constituency in Brussels, but the French-speaking parties refused and are calling for an extension of the Brussels region and, above all, retention of the rights of French-speaking inhabitants if the new constituency is created. During negotiations, one possible solution that was raised was a voting right for Brussels.

Note 4:
Ten senators each are designated by the Parliament of the French Community (Communauté française) and the Flemish Parliament (Vlaams Parlement) while the Parliament of the German-speaking Community nominates one member, bringing the total number of senators designated by the Community Parliaments to 21.

Note 5:
Six Flemish-speaking members and four French-speaking members are co-opted.
Voter turnout
Round no 113 June 2010
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
6'929'855 (89.22%)
Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total Gain/Loss
New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) 27
Socialist Party - Walloon (PS) 26 6
Movement for Reform (MR) 18 -5
Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) 17
Open vld 13 -5
Flemish Socialist Party (sp.a) 13
Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) 12 -5
Humanist Democratic Centre (cdH) 9 -1
Greens - Walloon (Ecolo) 8 0
GROEN! (Flemish green party) 5 1
Dedecker List 1 -4
People's Party 1
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
21 to 30 years
31 to 40 years
41 to 50 years
51 to 60 years
61 to 70 years
Over 70 years
Distribution of seats according to profession
Distribution of seats according to profession
Employee: 52
Liberal profession: 39
Education profession: 19
Civil servants: 17
Entrepreneur: 13
Journalist: 3
Worker: 1
Other: 6
Total: 150

House of Representatives (08.04.2011, 22.12.2011, 01.01.2014)

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