BELGIAN POLITICS GUIDE
Belgian King Philippe
Belgium's System of Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Belgian politics take place within the context of a Constitutional Monarchy, whereby the King of the Belgians
is Head of State and the Prime Minister is Head of Government in a multi-party system. Federal legislative power
is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Senate and Chamber of Representatives. The
Belgian Federation is made up of cultural/political communities and territorial regions, with the main divisions outlined
below between Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south.
As you can imagine from the above, Belgian politics are complex. With a large number of political entities
and institutions piled up on a territory between the US States of Maryland and Massachusetts in size, Belgium holds
the European record of the most costly political system: 57 Ministers and State Secretaries spread across six
different governments surrounded by seven parliaments and a dozen provincial governments. This political (dis)organization
is seen as reinforcing the ongoing communitarian disputes in the country (if also resulting from them), as well as a major
cause of the accelerating national-debt crisis.
Most political power is organised around the need to represent the main cultural communities. Since the early 70's
the significant national Belgian political parties have split into distinct representations for each communities'
interests besides defense of their ideologies. These parties belong to three main political families, though close to the
center: the right-wing Liberals, the social conservative Christian Democrats, and the left-wing Socialists. Other important
newer parties are the Green parties and, nowadays mainly in Flanders, the nationalist and far-right parties. Politics are
influenced by lobbying groups such as trade unions and employers' organizations like the Federation of Belgian
Enterprises. Majority rule is often superseded by a de facto confederal decision-making process where the minority (the
French-speakers) enjoy important protections through specialty majorities (2/3 overall and majority in each of the 2
Belgium is significant as a European nation crossing and deeply divided by a language boundary between Latin-derived
French and Germanic Dutch. The 2010 Belgian Federal election produced a highly fragmented political landscape, with 11 parties
elected to the Chamber of Representatives and none having more than 20% of the seats. The separatist New Flemish Alliance,
the largest party in Flanders and in Belgium as a whole, controlled 27 of 150 seats in the lower chamber. The Francophone
Socialist Party (PS), the largest party in Wallonia, controlled 26 seats. Belgium finally swore in a new government in December
2011, after 541 days which superseded a record formerly held by Cambodia for forming a government after an election.