What will we be voting for on 25 May?

On 25 May, for the first time since 1999, we will be voting for the European, federal and regional election on the same day. This means that voters in Flanders and (most of) Wallonia will be voting for to elect MP's in three parliaments, while residents of the Brussels-Capital Region that vote for an electoral list from the Dutch-language roll and the 50,000 or so voters that live in the 9 municipalities where German is the official language will vote for 4 different parliaments. Each of the assemblies that will be voted in on 25 May has its own set of competencies that affect us all in our daily lives. In the following article we will try to explain what powers each of the parliaments has so that you the reader will know what you are voting for on 25 May

The European Parliament

Belgium will be sending 21 MEPs to the new European Parliament. Croatia's accession to the European Union means that we will have 1 less MEP than is currently the case.

Belgium's MEPs are elected in three constituencies that have been drawn up along linguistic lines. The Dutch-language constituency (Flanders and Brussels) will elect 12 MEP (down from 13 currently), the French-language constituency (Brussels and Wallonia with the exception of the German-speaking municipalities) will elect 8 MEPs, while the German-language constituency (the 9 German-speaking municipalities) will elect 1 MEP.

The European Parliament shares the legislative and budgetary authority of the European Union with the European Council. Its 766 members are elected every five years by universal suffrage and sit according to political allegiance.

It represents European Citizens in the EU's legislative process, in contrast to the European Council, which represents the Member States. Despite forming one of the two legislative chambers of the European Union, the European Parliament has weaker powers than the European Council in some limited areas, and does not have legislative initiative. It does, however, have powers over the European Commission which the European Council does not.

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Regional and language community parliaments

As a federal country, Belgium has five regional and language community parliaments, four of which are directly elected.

The Flemish Parliament is the parliament of both the Flemish region and the Flemish Language Community. In addition to its responsibilities in the Flemish Region, Flanders is also responsible for Dutch-medium institutions such as schools, libraries, social welfare services, cultural centres, centres for social integration etc. in the Brussels-Capital region.

The Flemish Parliament has 124 members, 118 from the 5 provinces that make up the Flemish Region and 6 elected by those that voted for a Flemish party in the elections for the Brussels-Capital Region.

The 6 Flemish MPs from Brussels are only entitled to vote on so-called "language community affairs" such as education, social welfare, sport, media and culture.

The parliaments of the French and German Language Communities decide on these policy areas in (French-speaking) Brussels and Wallonia (excluding the German-speaking municipalities) and the 9 German-speaking municipalities respectively.

While the 25-member Parliament of the German Language Community is directly elected, the Parliament of the French Language Community is made up of the 25 most popular Francophone MPs from the Brussels Regional Parliament and the 50 most popular MPs from the Walloon Regional Parliament.

In addition to responsibility for language community affairs, the Flemish Parliament is also responsible for the following areas of policy in the 308 municipalities that make up the Flemish Region: the economy, employment, agricultural, water management, housing, and public works, energy, public transport (excluding the railways), the environment, town planning, conservation, foreign trade, the provinces and municipalities and joint authority services. The Walloon and Brussels regional parliaments are responsible for these policy areas in their respective regions.

The Brussels Regional Parliament has 89 members, 72 Francophones and 17 Dutch-speakers. The Walloon parliament has 75 members elected in the 5 provinces that make up the Walloon Region. 

The Federal Parliament

The Federal Parliament is made up of two chambers: the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. As a result of the 6th round of state reform, the Senate will no longer be (mainly) directly elected. Instead it will be made up of 50 senators that will be detached by the regional and language community parliaments and 10 appointed senators. 35 senators will be Dutch-speakers, 24 Francophone and 1 German-speaking.

The Chamber of Representatives is made up of 150 MPs elected in 11 constituencies (the 10 provinces and Brussels). The Chamber of Representatives serves as a watchdog for the Federal Government.

The Federal Government is responsible for areas of policy such finance, defence, justice, social security, the interior, foreign affairs and some areas of health policy.

Furthermore, the Federal Government is also responsible for (part-) nationalised industries such as the bpost and the Belgian rail company NMBS. In addition to this, it also responsible for managing the national debt, monetary policy, price and income policy, protecting savers and nuclear power.