Belgian Federal Parliament
The Belgian Federal Parliament is a bicameral parliament. It consists of the Chamber of Representatives (Dutch: Template:Audio, Template:Lang-fr, Template:Lang-de) and the Senate (Dutch: Template:Audio, Template:Lang-fr, Template:Lang-de). It sits in the Palace of the Nation (Template:Lang-fr; Template:Lang-nl).
Chamber of Representatives
The Chamber of Representatives holds its plenary meetings in the Palace of the Nation, Brussels. Eligibility requirements for the Chamber are a minimum age of 21, citizenship, and residency in Belgium.
The number of seats in the Chamber is constitutionally set at 150 elected from 11 electoral districts. The districts are divided along linguistic lines: 5 Flemish (79 seats), 5 Walloon (49 seats), and the bilingual district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (22 seats). The districts are the provinces, except for the districts of Leuven (part of Flemish Brabant) and Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde. Each district is given a number of seats proportional to its population (not number of voters) ranging from 4 for Luxembourg to 24 for Antwerp. All districts have an electoral threshold of 5%, except for Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde and Leuven; all districts are monolingual, except for Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde which encompasses both the 19 bilingual municipalities from the Brussels-Capital region and some 35 Dutch-speaking municipalities in Flemish Brabant, incl. 7 with language facilities for French-speakers.
The current composition was elected at the federal elections of 2010.
The Senate consists of 71 members. There are four categories of senators: directly elected senators, community senators, co-opted senators and senators by right (Template:Lang-nl, Template:Lang-fr). For the election of the 25 Flemish and 15 Francophone directly-elected senators, the country is divided into three constituencies. Of the Community senators, 10 are elected by the Flemish Parliament, 10 by the Parliament of the French Community, and 1 by the Parliament of the German-speaking Community.
The third category, the co-opted senators, consists of 10 representatives elected by the first two groups of senators. Eligibility requirements for the Senate are identical to those for the Chamber.
The final category, that of senators by right, consists of the children of the reigning monarch who are eligible to succeed to the throne. In theory, they can vote, but since the royal family is supposed to be politically neutral, they, in practice, do not vote in the Senate. In theory and in practice, they are not considered when the quorum is counted.
In the past, senators by right could only be men, since women were excluded from the succession. Since 1991, however, this is no longer true and, at the present time, Princess Astrid, Prince Philippe, and Prince Laurent exercise their constitutional right to a seat in the Senate, but constitutional convention provides that senators by right do not participate in Senate votes even though they officially have the right to do so.
The President of the Senate is Sabine de Bethune (CD&V) as of 2013.
The Senate holds its plenary meetings in the Palace of the Nation, Brussels. Template:Belgian senate election, 2010
Since the elections of 21 May 1995, there has been a breakdown of powers between the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate, which resulted in the latter having fewer competences than the Chamber of Representatives. Prior to that, the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate did the same parliamentary work on an equal footing, but now there are three different legislative procedures that can be followed: the one-chamber procedure, the optional two-chamber procedure, and the mandatory two-chamber procedure.
In certain matters both Chambers have equal power. These include constitutional revisions, laws requiring a qualified majority, laws on the basic structure of the Belgian State, laws approving agreements of cooperation between the Federal State, the Communities and the Regions, laws on the approval of international treaties, and laws on the organisation of the judiciary, the Council of State, and the Constitutional Court. In this case, the mandatory bicameral procedure applies, which means that both Chambers must pass exactly the same version of the bill.
For most other legislation, the Chamber of Representatives takes precedence over the Senate and the optional bicameral procedure applies. This means that the Senate may still intervene as a chamber of consideration and reflection. It has the opportunity to, within specific time limits, examine the bills adopted by the Chamber of Representatives and, if there is a reason to do so, make amendments. The Chamber may subsequently adopt or reject the amendments proposed by the Senate or make new proposals. The Senate can also submit a bill it has adopted to the Chamber, which can approve, reject or amend it. Whatever the case, the Chamber has the final word.
The one-chamber procedure applies in cases where the Chamber of Representatives has the sole power to legislate. It means that the Senate cannot intervene and that the Senate's approval is not required for the bill to pass. The matters for which the Chamber of Representatives is exclusively responsible include naturalisations, ministerial liability, State budget and accounts and military quotas.
Template:Expand section The United Chambers (Template:Lang-nl, Template:Lang-fr) is the name given to the body created when both chambers of the Federal Parliament meet in joint session. The United Chambers are convened only on certain occasions enumerated in the Belgian Constitution: the King must take the constitutional oath before the United Chambers, in accordance with article 91 of the Constitution, and the United Chambers must provide for the regency in the event that the successor to the Crown is a minor or the King is unable to reign, in accordance with articles 92 and 93 of the Constitution. The last session of the United Chambers took place on 9 August 1993, when King Albert II took the constitutional oath.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref>
Palace of the Nation
The Palace of the Nation (Template:Lang-fr; Template:Lang-nl) was built to a Neoclassical design by French architect Gilles-Barnabé Guimard from 1779 to 1783 and includes sculptures by Gilles-Lambert Godecharle. Under Austrian rule it housed the Sovereign Council of Brabant before being used as a courthouse during the French period. During the Dutch period it was one of two homes of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, the other being in the Hague. The provisional Government of Belgium and the Belgian National Congress moved into the building in 1830 and the first session of the House of Representatives and Senate was held there a year later.
It stands near the site of the former palace of the Dukes of Brabant, which was destroyed by fire in 1731, and has itself been badly damaged by fire, in 1820 and 1883.
- Politics of Belgium
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