Elections 2019: The Flemish Parliament

The Flemish Parliament has both legislative and supervisory powers. Like Belgium’s other regions and Language Communities, Flanders uses a single chamber system. The 124 members, 118 from the five provinces that make up the Flemish Region and 6 from the bi-lingual Brussels-Capital Region, are elected every 5 years. The next elections for the Flemish Parliament coincide with the elections for the Federal Parliament and the European Parliament on Sunday 26 May 2019. 

The 118 Members of the Flemish from the 5 Flemish Provinces are elected by all those voting in the respective provincial parliamentary constituencies. The 6 Members of the Flemish Parliament from the Brussels-Capital Region are elected only by those that choose to vote for a Dutch-speaking party or candidate in the elections for the Brussels Parliament that fall on the same day as the Flemish elections.

The Flemish Parliament has its seat in Brussel, just a stone’s throw away from the Federal Parliament. To avoid confusion with the federal laws: the laws made by the Flemish Parliament are known as decrees. However, the difference in name does not imply that decrees are subordinate to federal laws.

The Flemish Parliament also appoints the ministers of the Flemish Government. The current Flemish Government is a centre-right coalition made up of Flemish nationalists, Christian democrats and liberals.

The Flemish Parliament is a fixed-term parliament and it cannot be dissolved prior to the end of its five-year mandate. 

In recent years, six political parties have played a significant role in Flemish parliamentary elections: the Flemish Liberal Democrats (Open VLD), the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V), the Flemish Socialists (SP.A), the Greens (Groen), the centre-right Flemish Nationalist Party (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie or N-VA) and the far-right party Vlaams Belang.

No single party has ever yet got a majority of votes or seat. After the elections, the parties hold talks to form a coalition. The Flemish Government therefore has always been a coalition government. The so-called “Cordon sanitaire” means that all the other parties refuse to enter into coalition with the far-right Vlaams Belang. 

What does the Flemish Parliament do?

The main task of the Flemish Parliament is approving decrees. A decree is a Flemish law, a general rule which applies to the entire Flemish population. 

The Flemish Parliament deals with important aspects of the daily life in Flanders. It can approve decrees in areas such as culture, language use, education, housing, environment and water policy and public works. Also international affairs and science and research are competencies of the Flemish Parliament. 

For the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Brussels (a separate region but part of the Flemish Community), the Flemish Parliament has jurisdiction over community matters such as  education, cultural issues and all other 'matters relating to the person'.

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