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The Chamber of Representatives ( Dutch: , french: link=no, Chambre des représentants, german: link=no, Abgeordnetenkammer) is one of the two chambers in the
bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided into two separate Deliberative assembly, assemblies, chambers, or houses, known as a bicameral legislature. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and ...
Federal Parliament of
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the ...
, the other being the
Senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
. It is considered to be the "
lower house A lower house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a Bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house. Despite its official position "below" the upper house, in many legislatures worldwide, the lower house has co ...
" of the Federal Parliament.


Members and elections

Article 62 of the
Belgian Constitution The Constitution of Belgium ( nl, Belgische Grondwet, french: Constitution belge, german: Verfassung Belgiens) dates back to 1831. Since then Belgium has been a parliamentary monarchy that applies the principles of ministerial responsibility f ...
fixes the number of seats in the Chamber of Representatives at 150. There are 11 electoral districts, which correspond with the ten
Provinces A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or sovereign state, state. The term derives from the ancient Roman ''Roman province, provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire ...
(five Dutch- and five French-speaking) and the
Brussels-Capital Region Brussels (french: Bruxelles or ; nl, Brussel ), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (All text and all but one graphic show the English name as Brussels-Capital Region.) (french: link=no, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale; nl, link=no, Bruss ...
. Prior to the
sixth Belgian state reform The sixth state reform in the federal kingdom of Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germa ...
, the province of
Flemish Brabant Flemish Brabant ( nl, Vlaams-Brabant ; french: Brabant flamand ) is a province of Flanders, one of the three regions of Belgium. It borders on (clockwise from the North) the Belgian provinces of Antwerp Province, Antwerp, Limburg (Belgium), Limbu ...
was divided into two electoral districts: one for
Leuven Leuven (, ) or Louvain (, , ; german: link=no, Löwen ) is the capital and largest City status in Belgium, city of the Provinces of Belgium, province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region of Belgium. It is located about east of Brussels. Th ...
and the other, named
Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde The area within Belgium known as Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde encompasses the bilingual—French language, French and Dutch language, Dutch—Brussels-Capital Region, which coincides with the arrondissement of Brussels-Capital and the surrounding Du ...
(BHV), which encompassed both the 19 bilingual municipalities from the
Brussels-Capital Region Brussels (french: Bruxelles or ; nl, Brussel ), officially the Brussels-Capital Region (All text and all but one graphic show the English name as Brussels-Capital Region.) (french: link=no, Région de Bruxelles-Capitale; nl, link=no, Bruss ...
and the 35 Dutch-speaking municipalities of Halle-Vilvoorde in Flemish Brabant, including seven municipalities with linguistic facilities for French-speaking inhabitants. The seats are divided among the political parties using the
D'Hondt method The D'Hondt method, also called the Jefferson method or the greatest divisors method, is a method for allocating seats in parliaments among federal states, or in party-list proportional representation, party-list proportional representation syste ...
of
proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) refers to a type of electoral system under which subgroups of an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical (e.g. states, regions) and political divi ...
, which slightly favours large parties and coalitions. There is an electoral threshold of 5%. The Representatives are divided into two so-called "language groups". Of the total of 150 representatives, 88 are part of the Dutch-language group, which consists of representatives from the Dutch-language area, and 62 are part of the French-language group, which consists of representatives from the French-language area and the German-language area. For the representatives from the Brussels region, the language in which they take their oath as a representative determines which language group they belong to. Following the 2007 federal election, the Chamber has a German-speaking member ( Kattrin Jadin) for the first time since 1999. Nevertheless, because of the
Belgian constitution The Constitution of Belgium ( nl, Belgische Grondwet, french: Constitution belge, german: Verfassung Belgiens) dates back to 1831. Since then Belgium has been a parliamentary monarchy that applies the principles of ministerial responsibility f ...
, both linguistic communities are granted equal powers in the parliament. Although in general bills can be passed without a majority in both linguistic groups, bills relating to specific issues (so-called 'community laws') cannot and need the consent of both language groups. The following table shows the current (2022) distribution of seats between the language groups and the electoral districts.


Qualifications

Article 64 of the Belgian constitution sets forth four qualifications for representatives: each representative must be at least 21 years old, possess the Belgian nationality, have the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, and be resident in Belgium. A representative can only enter into office after having taken the oath of office, in either of the three official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French or German. Representatives can also choose to take the oath in more than one language. The oath of office is as follows: ''"I swear to observe the Constitution"''. ( nl, Ik zweer de Grondwet na te leven, french: link=no, Je jure d'observer la Constitution, german: link=no, Ich schwöre, die Verfassung zu befolgen) Certain offices are incompatible with the office of representative. Members of a regional or community parliament who take the oath of office as a representative automatically cease to sit in the regional or community parliament, in accordance with the Belgian Electoral Code. The same applies the other way around as well, a representative who takes the oath of office in a regional or community parliament automatically ceases to be a representative. A member of the Chamber of Representatives may not also be a member of the
Senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
at the same time, and senators must give up their seats in the Senate in order to join the Chamber of Representatives. Another important incompatibility is based on the
separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state (polity), state's government into branches, each with separate, independent power (social and political), powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflic ...
. Representatives appointed as a minister cease to sit in the Chamber of Representatives. During their service, the representative is replaced. Individuals resigning as a minister can return to the Chamber in accordance with Article 50 of the
Belgian Constitution The Constitution of Belgium ( nl, Belgische Grondwet, french: Constitution belge, german: Verfassung Belgiens) dates back to 1831. Since then Belgium has been a parliamentary monarchy that applies the principles of ministerial responsibility f ...
. A representative cannot be a civil servant or a member of the judiciary at the same time, however, a civil servant who is elected to the Chamber is entitled to political leave and doesn't have to resign as a civil servant. It is also not possible to be a member of the Federal Parliament and a
Member of the European Parliament A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) is a person who has been elected to serve as a popular representative in the European Parliament. When the European Parliament (then known as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Commu ...
at the same time. The Chamber of Representatives does not systematically check whether any of these (or other) incompatibilities apply to its members, however, newly elected members are informed of the most important incompatibilities at the start of their mandate and it is up to them to verify whether they are in compliance with the regulations regarding incompatibilities and, if not, to determine which office they will abandon.


Officers

The Chamber of Representatives elects a presiding officer, known as the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) *President (education), a leader of a college or university *President (government title) President may also refer to: Automobiles * Nissan President, a 1966–2010 Japanese ful ...
, at the beginning of each parliamentary term, which starts on the second Tuesday of October each year. The President is assisted by up to five vice-presidents, two of which are known respectively as the first vice-president and the second vice-president, who are also elected at the beginning of each parliamentary term. The President is customarily a member of one of the parties forming the government coalition, only thrice in the history of the Chamber has the President been a member of the opposition. The first vice-president is usually a member of the other language group than that of the President. The current President of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives is Patrick Dewael of the
Open Vld The Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (, ; Open Vld) is a Flemish conservative-liberal political party in Belgium. The party was created in 1992 from the former bilingual Party for Freedom and Progress (PVV) and politicians from other parties ...
. The president presides over the plenary assembly of the Chamber of Representatives, guides and controls debates in the assembly, and is responsible for ensuring the democratic functioning of the Chamber, for the maintenance of order and security in the assembly and for enforcing the Rules of the Chamber of Representatives. To this end, he or she is given considerable powers. He or she also represents the Chamber at both the national (to the other institutions) and the international level. The President also assesses the admissibility of bills and proposals. The president of the Chamber, together with the President of the Belgian Senate, ranks immediately behind the
King King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. *In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contempora ...
in the
order of precedence An order of precedence is a sequential hierarchy of nominal importance and can be applied to individuals, groups, or organizations. Most often it is used in the context of people by many organizations and governments, for very formal and state o ...
. The elder of the two takes the second place in the order of precedence, while the other takes the third. The presidents of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate rank above the
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
. The Bureau of the Chamber of Representatives is composed of the President, the Vice-Presidents, the Secretaries and the floor leaders of the fractions with at least five members. The fractions that have at least 12 members and have no President, Vice-President or Secretary sitting on the Bureau can appoint an additional member. The Bureau is elected for the duration of one parliamentary term, but in practice the composition of the Bureau remains the same for the entire duration of the legislature, which is four years, unless the Federal Parliament is dissolved early. The Bureau is responsible for the management of the Chamber of Representatives. In addition, the Bureau also appoints and dismisses the staff of the Chamber of Representatives. The Bureau usually meets once every three months. There is also a Conference of Presidents, which is one of the most important bodies of the Chamber of Representatives. It consists of the president and vice-presidents of the Chamber, former presidents of the Chamber who are still members of the Chamber and the
floor leader In politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power relations among individuals, such as the di ...
and a member of each fraction. A member of the
federal government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a political union, union of partially Federated state, self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central #Federal governments, federal gover ...
responsible for the relations with the Chamber attends the meetings of the Conference as well. The Conference meets weekly to discuss the day-to-day business and the work of the Chamber. The Chamber of the Representatives has, just like the Senate a College of Quaestors, which consists of five representatives who are elected by the plenary assembly for a duration of two years. The Quaestors are in charge of the housekeeping of the Chamber, they are also responsible for matters such as human resources and computers. The Colleges of Quaestors of the Senate and the Chamber meet regularly to settle common problems concerning the library, buildings, security, catering, etc.


Procedure

Like the Senate, the Chamber of Representatives meets in the Palace of the Nation in Brussels. The
hemicycle In legislatures, a hemicycle is a Semicircle, semicircular, or horseshoe-shaped, debating chamber (''plenary chamber''), where Member of Parliament, deputies (members) sit to discuss and pass legislation. Although originally of Ancient Greek lang ...
of the Chamber is decorated in green. In contrast, the hemicycle of the Senate is decorated in red. These colours were inspired on the colours used by the
House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house of the bicameral parliaments of the United Kingdom and Canada. In both of these countries, the Commons holds much more legislative power than the nominally upper house of parliament. T ...
and the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the Bicameralism, upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by Life peer, appointment, Hereditary peer, heredity or Lords Spiritual, official function. Like the ...
of the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the Parliamentary sovereignty in the United Kingdom, supreme Legislature, legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It meets at the Palace of We ...
. The
Belgian Constitution The Constitution of Belgium ( nl, Belgische Grondwet, french: Constitution belge, german: Verfassung Belgiens) dates back to 1831. Since then Belgium has been a parliamentary monarchy that applies the principles of ministerial responsibility f ...
provides that the Federal Parliament meets by right on the second Tuesday of October every year for a parliamentary session of at least 40 days. This means that the parliamentary session is opened automatically without being convened by the
King King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. *In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contempora ...
. The Constitution also provides that the Senate cannot meet when the Chamber of Representatives is not in session. Although the Constitution provides that the Federal Parliament must remain in session for at least 40 days, in practice it remains in session throughout the year. In principle, an ordinary session lasts from the second Tuesday of October until the day before the second Tuesday of October the following year, however, the Federal Parliament goes into recess three times a year, for the Christmas holidays, the Easter holidays and for the summer holidays from 20 July until the end of September. If the Federal Parliament is dissolved and new
elections An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative ...
are held before the end of the parliamentary term, then the newly elected Chamber meets in extraordinary session until the start of the next ordinary session. The committees of the Chamber of Representatives usually meet on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday, the Conference of President meets to set the agenda for the plenary session. On Thursday morning the fractions meet. The Chamber of Representatives usually meets for a
plenary session A plenary session or plenum is a Session (parliamentary procedure), session of a Convention (meeting), conference which all members of all parties are to attend. Such a session may include a broad range of content, from keynotes to panel discuss ...
on Thursday afternoon and every two weeks it meets in plenary session on Wednesday as well. Every Thursday afternoon between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. is Question Time. There are usually no parliamentary activities on Friday. Article 53 of the constitution provides that at least a majority of its members must be present in order for the Chamber to make decisions. It is noteworthy that this does not apply to all business of the Chamber, such as debates or questions to members of the federal government, but that a
quorum A quorum is the minimum number of members of a deliberative assembly (a body that uses parliamentary procedure, such as a legislature) necessary to conduct the business of that group. According to ''Robert's Rules of Order, Robert's Rules of Or ...
must only be present in order to make decisions. If not enough members are present, the decision is invalid. In order to make a decision, at least 50% plus 1 of the members present and voting must vote in the affirmative. If a vote is tied, the president does not have a
casting vote A casting vote is a voting, vote that someone may exercise to resolve a Tie (draw), tied vote in a deliberative body. A casting vote is typically by the presiding officer of a council, legislative body, committee, etc., and may only be exercised ...
and the proposal is rejected. The procedure outlined in Article 53 of the constitution applies to all most decisions, however, the constitution establishes two exceptions: to amend the constitution, a two-thirds majority of the members must be present and at least two-thirds of the votes cast must be in the affirmative, and in order to adopt a so-called special law, a qualified majority of 50% plus 1 of each language group must be present and at least 50% plus 1 must be present and at least 50% plus 1 of the votes cast in each language group, as well as two-thirds of the votes cast of the two language groups together, must be in the affirmative. The Chamber may vote in three manners. Firstly, it may vote by
roll call ''Roll Call'' is a newspaper and website published in Washington, D.C., United States, when the United States Congress is in session, reporting news of legislative and political maneuverings on Capitol Hill, as well as political coverage of c ...
. In the past, the names of the members were read in alphabetical order and each member had to announce his or her vote when his name was called, however, since 1995, voting by roll call has been done electronically. Voting by roll call is the most frequently used method and is compulsory in three cases: at the end of debates on a government statement, the vote on bills as a whole and when requested by at least eight members. Secondly, the Chamber may vote by sitting and standing. This method is used in less important cases requiring quick treatment and in which there is a clear majority. In the event of doubt, the vote is taken again or done electronically. Voting by sitting and standing is anonymous and is used for votes on amendments and individual articles of a bill. Finally, the Chamber may conduct a secret vote. In principle, the votes are public and votes on legislation are never secret, only the appointments and nominations the Chamber has to make take place by secret vote.


Committees

The Chamber of Representatives uses committees for a variety of purposes. The Chamber has several standing committees, each of which has responsibility for a particular area of government (for example justice or social affairs). These standing committees examine and consider bills and legislative proposals, and may for this purpose hold hearings. A standing committee comprises 17 Representatives, members are appointed using proportional representation. The chairpersons of the committees are also divided among the parties in accordance with the same principle of proportional representation. As a result, some committees are chaired by members of the opposition.


Standing committees

This is a list of standing committees: * Defence * Social Affairs *
Justice Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspective ...
* Foreign Relations * Revision of the Constitution and Reform of the Institutions * Problems regarding Commercial and Economic Law * Interior, General Affairs and the Civil Service * Economy, Science Policy, Education, National Scientific and Cultural Institutions, Middle Classes and Agriculture * Finances and Budget * Infrastructure, Communications and Public Enterprises * Public Health, Environment and Social Renewal


Special committees

There are also special committees, such as the Committee on Naturalisations.


Legislative functions

Since the elections of 21 May 1995, there has been a breakdown of powers between the Chamber of Representatives and the
Senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
, which resulted in the Senate having fewer competences than the Chamber of Representatives. Prior to that, the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate did the same legislative work on an equal footing. This means that both chambers had to pass exactly the same version of a bill. In certain matters both the Chamber and the Senate still have equal power, which means that both Chambers must pass exactly the same version of the bill. These include constitutional revisions, laws requiring a qualified majority (the so-called "community laws"), laws on the basic structure of the Belgian State, laws approving agreements of cooperation between the
Federal State A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism Federalism is a combined or c ...
, the
Communities A community is a Level of analysis, social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as place (geography), place, Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communiti ...
and the
Regions In geography, regions, otherwise referred to as zones, lands or territories, are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics (physical geography), human impact characteristics (human geography), and the interaction of humanity and t ...
, laws on the approval of international treaties, and laws on the organisation of the judiciary, the
Council of State A Council of State is a governmental body in a country, or a subdivision of a country, with a function that varies by jurisdiction. It may be the formal name for the Cabinet (government), cabinet or it may refer to a non-executive advisory body as ...
, and the Constitutional Court of Belgium. However, bills concerning international treaties are introduced in the Senate first before moving on to the Chamber. For almost all other legislation, the Chamber of Representatives takes precedence over the Senate. However, the Senate may still intervene as a chamber of consideration and reflection as it has the opportunity to, within specific time limits, examine the texts adopted by the Chamber and, if there is a reason to do so, make amendments. The Chamber can subsequently adopt or reject the amendments proposed by the Senate or make new proposals. Whatever the case, the Chamber has the final word on all "ordinary legislation". The Senate may also submit a bill it has adopted to the Chamber which can approve, reject or amend it, in this case the Chamber also has the final word. There are also certain matters for which the Chamber of Representatives is exclusively responsible. These matters include the granting of naturalisations, passing legislation with regard to the civil and criminal liability of the ministers of the
Federal Government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a political union, union of partially Federated state, self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central #Federal governments, federal gover ...
, the government budget and the State's accounts, appointing parliamentary ombudsmen and examine their activities, and determining military quotas.


Relationship with the Government

The members of the
Federal Government A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a political union, union of partially Federated state, self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central #Federal governments, federal gover ...
are answerable to the Chamber of Representatives, in accordance with Article 101 of the Constitution. On taking office, the Federal Government must have the confidence of the majority of the representatives. The Chamber of Representatives is also exclusively responsible for the political control of the Federal Government. The confidence in the Federal Government may be revoked by the Chamber at any time by the adoption of a
motion of no confidence A motion of no confidence, also variously called a vote of no confidence, no-confidence motion, motion of confidence, or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility like in government or mana ...
or by the rejection of a
motion of confidence A motion of no confidence, also variously called a vote of no confidence, no-confidence motion, motion of confidence, or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility like in government or mana ...
. Due to the fragmented nature of Belgian politics, no party family has a realistic chance of winning the 76 seats needed for an outright majority in the Chamber of Representatives. As a result, nearly all Belgian governments since the end of
World War I World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
have been coalitions between two or more parties or party families.


Latest election


Current composition

Current party standings, as of September 2019:


Former compositions


Before 1993: 212 MPs

1978–1981 1981–1985 1985–1987 1987–1991 1991–1995


After 1993: 150 MPs

1995–1999 1999–2003 2003–2007 2007–2010 2010–2014 2014–2019 2019–


See also

* List of presidents of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium *
Belgian Federal Parliament The Federal Parliament is the bicameralism, bicameral parliament of Belgium. It consists of the Chamber of Representatives (Belgium), Chamber of Representatives (Dutch language, Dutch: , french: Chambre des Représentants, german: Abgeordnetenkamm ...
* Belgian Senate *
Politics of Belgium The politics of Belgium take place in the framework of a federation, federal, representative democracy, representative democratic, constitutional monarchy. The King of the Belgians is the head of state, and the Prime Minister of Belgium, prime ...


References


External links


Chamber of Representatives Official WebpageFederal Government Official Webpage
{{DEFAULTSORT:Belgian Chamber Of Representatives 1831 establishments in Belgium
Belgium Belgium, ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Northwestern Europe. The country is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the ...
sv:Belgiens federala parlament#Representantkammaren