Elections 09: Brussels decides

On 7 June inhabitants of the Brussels Region will elect a new Regional Parliament, but they will also dispatch their representative to the Flemish or Francophone Community Parliaments.
If today Brussels is a largely Francophone city, its origins are Flemish. Dutch used to be language of the overwhelming majority of the population. Over the years social linguistic mechanisms, an influx of French- and other-speakers and a Francophile education system have changed this picture.
Officially  Brussels is now a bilingual enclave in Dutch-speaking Flanders. Its Flemish Community is modest, but during the daytime they are joined by tens of thousands of Flemish commuters (who admittedly do not pay any income tax here).

Today Flemings have a guaranteed representation in the Brussels Parliament. They elect 17 of the 89 members of the Brussels Regional Parliament.

Who governs Brussels?

Both communities are represented in the Brussels Government that is answerable to the Brussels Parliament. The Government has five ministers. Two are Flemings; two are Francophones as is the Prime Minister of the Brussels Region, who like his federal colleague is supposed to be 'language-neutral'.

At the moment Brussels is governed by a coalition led by the Francophone socialists. It includes Flemish Christian democrats, liberals and socialists as well as Francophone Christian democrats and ecologists.

The Francophone liberals of MR - the main challengers of the Parti socialiste - hope to break the left's stranglehold on power in the enclave.

Does it matter?

Belgium has so many governments, does it really matter who is elected? Well, the Brussels Regional Parliament does have considerable powers. It is responsible for the local economy and trade, employment, energy, environment, housing, transport, public works and urban planning.
Community powers governing education, healthcare and culture are exerted by two Community Commissions. The Flemish Commission, the VGC, consists of all the Brussels Region MPs who belong to the Flemish group.

The VGC can only take decisions regarding Flemish Community institutions in Brussels. It cannot take decisions about so called "personal matters" because inhabitants of the capital cannot be obliged to make a choice between either community in order to qualify for any of the services offered by the Communities.

Health care, services for the handicapped and the aged are all “Personal matters”

A Joint Community Committee deals with such issues.

Community or Region?

To illustrate the difference: education is a matter for the communities, while housing is a power of the regional government.

Voting for Flemish Parliament too

Inhabitants of the capital who choose to vote for a Flemish list will also be able to select six members of the Flemish Parliament.

The situation is a complex one. Belgium is carved up into three regions and there are also three language communities, but the communities do not correspond exactly with the regions.

In Flanders community and region merged making the Flemish Parliament and its Government responsible for both types of power.