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- Elections every five years
- Electoral districts and electoral colleges
- Before and after the elections?
The Flemish Parliament is elected every five years. The elections coincide with those for the European Parliament. The Flemish Parliament cannot be dissolved early; there are no early elections for the Flemish Parliament.
- To be eligible, one has to comply with a number of conditions:
- be a Belgian citizen on the day of the elections
- be at least 18 years old on the day of the elections
- have been living in the Flemish or Brussels-Capital Region for at least 6 months on the day of the elections
- candidates must not be have lost the right to be elected as a result of a court ruling.
- You can vote for the Flemish Parliament if you:
- are a Belgian citizen
- are at least 18 years old on the day of the elections
- live in a municipality of the Flemish Region or the Brussels-Capital Region
- have not lost your voting rights (for instance as a result of a court ruling)
Participation in elections is mandatory in Belgium, but you have the possibility to cast a blank or invalid vote.
1. (Provincial) electoral districts
For the election of the Flemish Parliament votes are cast in 6 electoral districts. A political party that wants to participate in the elections in all of Flanders has to present a separate list of candidates in each electoral district.
- The Flemish Region is divided into 5 electoral districts, which coincide with the 5 Flemish provinces.
- The 19 Brussels municipalities constitute a separate electoral district: the Brussels-Capital electoral district.
2. Electoral colleges
An electoral college comprises all voters who live in the electoral district.
- Each electoral college of an electoral district elects a previously established number of Members of Parliament from the lists of candidates that are presented in that electoral district.
- The number of members to be elected in each electoral district is determined based on the population figures of the electoral districts. Every 10 years the Government of Flanders calculates the number of members to be elected for each electoral district (shown on the map).
Brussels-Capital is an electoral district where lists of both Dutch-speaking and French-speaking candidates can be presented.
- In Brussels-Capital there are two electoral colleges: a Dutch-speaking electoral college, which is made up of all voters voting for a Dutch-speaking list, and a French-speaking electoral college, which is made up of all voters voting for a French-speaking list.
- The 6 Brussels members of the Flemish Parliament are elected by the Dutch-speaking electoral college of the Brussels electoral district. The inhabitants of Brussels first have to vote in the elections of the Brussels Capital Parliament. Only voters who have voted for a Dutch-speaking list or have abstained from voting in the elections for the Brussels Capital Parliament can participate in the elections of the 6 Brussels members of the Flemish Parliament.
1. The Flemish Parliament is not dissolved
The Flemish Parliament cannot be dissolved early: the term ends on the day of the elections.
Traditionally, the Flemish Parliament has chosen to end its parliamentary activities around the fortieth day before the elections in order to allow the Members of Parliament to dedicate themselves completely to their election campaign from then onwards. The last plenary meeting of the Flemish Parliament is usually held in the last week of April before the elections. When the Flemish Parliament considers this necessary, it can also meet after that.
The Government of Flanders maintains all its powers until the day of the elections. However, in practice, parliamentary supervision of the Government is limited in the period between the last plenary meeting and the day of the elections. Given that, in principle, no more meetings are held, the tools for supervision that are available during those meetings (topical questions, interpellations, requests for explanation) cannot be used. However, parliamentary supervision by means of written questions is independent from the plenary meeting or the meetings of the committees. Hence, this supervisory activity continues.
2. Resignation of the Government of Flanders
Traditionally, the Government of Flanders presents its resignation to the Speaker of the Flemish Parliament the day after the elections. From that moment onwards, the Government can only deal with current issues. Hence, during the short period between the day of the elections and the opening statement of the Parliament, the powers of the Government are limited. This means that the Government can only deal with matters of daily management and urgent matters which cannot be postponed. In addition, it can still take decisions that are part of the normal continuation or ending of procedures that were correctly initiated before the resignation. In any case, new policy choices or decisions with major financial consequences have to wait until the new government is in place.
3. Swearing in of new Members of Parliament
On the fourth Tuesday after the elections the newly elected Members of Parliament meet for the first time. At that first meeting, the Flemish Parliament is formed in its new composition.
The first session is led by a provisional Speaker. The Representative who has been a Member of the Flemish Parliament for the longest time (the "father of the house") takes on the duties of provisional Speaker. In this calculation, the years during which the Representative was a member of the Cultural Council for the Dutch Cultural Community or of the Flemish Council are taken into account. He or she is assisted by the two youngest Members of Parliament, who act as interim Secretaries. (Photograph: Opening session of parliament in 2014. The Provisional Speaker leads the proceedings)
The formation of the Flemish Parliament takes place in two steps.
- First, the Flemish Parliament decides on the validity of the elections leading to the election of its Members and their substitutes, and on the question whether the 124 elected members and their substitutes comply with the conditions to be elected, the so-called eligibility conditions. This is called the examination of credentials.
- After that, the elected Representatives whose credentials are approved take the following oath: 'I swear I will abide by the Constitution'. From that moment onwards, they can start carrying out their mandate.
4. Election of the Speaker and the Bureau of the Flemish Parliament
Once the elected Flemish Representatives have been sworn in, the Speaker, the Deputy Speakers and the Secretaries of the Flemish Parliament are elected. Together they make up the Bureau and are responsible for the daily administration of the Parliament.
In principle, the Bureau is elected during the opening session. If there is no immediate agreement on who shall be Speaker and member of the Bureau, the election of the Bureau can be postponed up to a maximum of 10 working days. As long as no Bureau has been elected, no new Government of Flanders can be appointed.
As soon as the Bureau has been appointed, the Speaker of the Flemish Parliament declares that the Parliament 'has been formed', and informs the Government of Flanders, the Chamber and the Senate and the Parliaments of the other Communities and Regions of this. Traditionally, the newly elected Speaker of the Flemish Parliament gives a speech to the plenary meeting.
(Photo: Provisional speaker Herman De Croo (l.) congratulates Jan Peumans (r.) on his election as speaker of the Flemish Parliament in 2015. In the center of the photograph ms. Martine Goossens, secretary-general and clerk of the house of the Flemish Parliament)
5. Election of the Government of Flanders
As soon as the Flemish Parliament has been formed after its renewal, it can elect the new government. The exact moment of this election depends on the duration of the negotiations between the political parties about the formation of a new government.
Immediately after the election of the Government each member of the Government takes an oath before the Speaker of the Parliament. The Government appoints a president from among its members ('Minister-President'). The appointment of the Minister-President is ratified by the King, before whom he takes an oath.
In a Government Statement of Policy addressed to the Flemish Parliament, the Minister-President of the new Government of Flanders explains the coalition agreement. After that, during the plenary meeting, a debate is held about the coalition agreement and the Government Statement of Policy, called the investiture debate. After the debate, the plenary meeting votes on the coalition agreement.
The Flemish Government in may 2016.
Top row (l.t.r.): Sven Gatz (Culture, Media Youth, Brussels) - Joke Schauvliege (Environment, Nature, Agriculture) - Philippe Muyters (Employment, Innovation, Economy, Sports) - Jo Vandeurzen (Welfare, Health, Family) - Ben Weyts (Trasnport, Public Works, Brussels Periphery, Tourism, Animal Welfare)
Bottom row (l.t.r.): Liesbeth Homans (Deputy Minister-President; Home office, Integration, Housing, Equal Opportunities, Poverty Reduction) - Bart Tommelein (Deputy Minister-President; Budget, Finance, Energy) - Hilde Crevits (Deputy Minister-President; Education) - Geert Bourgeois (Minister-president, Foreign affairs, Material Heritage)