Belgium is a monarchy with a parliamentary
regime. Since 1993, the country has been a federal
state. It consists of three regions and three language
communities that form parallel structures and partially
overlap. The construction, and the division between the
country's two major language groups, makes it difficult
to form government and multi-party coalitions is the
The monarch is the head of state with limited powers.
They include appointing government leaders and the head
of state also has the right to dissolve parliament. The
king or queen is considered to stand above politics and
is a unifying symbol in the otherwise divided country.
Since 1991, both male and female succession has been
applied. King Philippe has been on the throne since
Total population and chart of Belgium for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The regions are Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The
language communities are Flemish, French and German. The
Flanders region and the Flemish language community
coincide completely. The Walloon region is mainly
French-speaking but also includes the small
German-speaking area of Eupen-Malmedy in eastern
Belgium. The Brussels region is formally bilingual
(Flemish and French), although a large majority of
residents are French speaking.
In addition to the regions and the linguistic
communities, the constitution also defines four
linguistic areas: the Flemish, the French, the bilingual
(in Brussels) and the German. Furthermore, Belgium is
divided into ten provinces and 589 municipalities. The
elected provincial and municipal assemblies are led by
governors and mayors, respectively. Of the provinces,
five belong to Flanders and five to Wallonia. The
capital of Brussels, with its 19 municipalities, is
outside the provincial system. Each municipality in the
country belongs to one of the four language areas. The
provinces are politically weak but municipal politics
are lively and many high-level politicians still have a
role, such as mayors in their hometown.
The regions and the language communities have gained
more influence in several stages since the federation
was introduced. The regions are responsible for, among
other things, foreign trade, arms exports, development
cooperation, agricultural and labor market policies and
some tax issues. The language communities mainly deal
with education and cultural issues. The federal agencies
mainly handle foreign, financial, social and judicial
policies as well as domestic security.
The often difficult-to-interpret distribution of
power in Belgium is a result of a decentralization
process that has been going on since the 1970s and that
reflects deep contradictions between the peoples.
Broadly speaking, Flanders wants to have increased
self-government while poorer Wallonia wants to keep the
state together. In addition to the federal parliament,
there are a total of five parliaments in the regions and
communities. The Flemish countries have chosen to
combine the functions for the region and the language
community, otherwise the number would be six.
The Federal Parliament consists of two chambers. The
main responsibility for the legislative work lies with
the House of Representatives.
Its 150 members are elected in general and proportional
elections. The term of office was changed during the
2014 elections from four to five years. The
Senate mainly has an advisory function, but,
like the Chamber of Deputies, votes on issues that
concern, among other things, constitutional amendments
and international agreements. Previously, 40 of the then
71 senators were elected in general elections every four
years, but since 2014 the senate instead consists of 60
members indirectly appointed at the regional level (see
also Modern history).
A five percent block in parliaments has existed
since 2003, with the exception of three of the eleven
electoral districts. The voting age is 18 and it is
compulsory to vote; those who do not participate risk
fines. The turnout is usually around 90 percent. Foreign
nationals residing in the country may vote in municipal
The border between French and Flemish in Belgium is
particularly clear on the party political map, as there
are two parties for each major political orientation -
one Flemish and one French. Almost no party is
nationwide. Only in Brussels can voters vote for both
Flemish and French-speaking parties. Politics were
dominated by Christian democrats, liberals and
socialists until the 1990s. During the last decade,
environmental and nationalist parties won ground and the
political picture became complicated. In the 2000s,
Flemish nationalists and right-wing extremists have
strengthened their position and created concern among
the established parties.
Christian Democrats led most coalition governments in
the second half of the 20th century. They were also
government formers in 2007-2010, when Christian
Democratic and Flemish (Christen-Democratisch &
Vlaams, CD&V) again became the largest
party. The Walloon Sister Party Humanist
Democratic Center (Center Démocrate Humaniste,
CDH) now calls itself a center party
without a clear Christian democratic identity.
The Walloon Liberal Party is called the
Reform Movement (Mouvement Reformer, MR)
and led the government formed in October 2014. The
party's counterpart in Flanders, Free Flemish
Liberals and Democrats (Open Vlaamse Liberalen
en Democraten, Open VLD or just
VLD) led the government in 1999-2007. "Open"
was added to the name in 2007, when two other liberal
small parties joined.
The Socialist Party (Parti
Socialiste, PS) is the largest in
Wallonia and led the government which after lengthy
negotiations was formed at the end of 2011. The sister
party in Flanders is called the Socialist Party-Annorlunda
(Socialist Party-Anders, SP-A).
The right-wing Nationalist New Flemish
Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA)
has been the largest party in the House of
Representatives since 2010. N-VA has an independent
Flanders goal, but wants to reach it first in the long
term and with peaceful means. N-VA was part of the
four-party government that was formed in 2014, but
dropped out of autumn 2018 (see Current policy).
More extreme is the strongly anti-immigrant
Flemish interest (Vlaams Belang, VB
- former Flemish bloc, see Modern history). Both VB and
N-VA originate in the former Flemish nationalist party
Folkunionen (Volksunie, VU). VB performed strongly in
the 2019 elections.
The environmental party in Wallonia calls itself
Ecolo and the sister party in Flanders
is called Green (Groen, formerly Agalev).
Belgium's Workers' Party (Party of
Labor of Belgium / Party of Travail de Belgique,
PVDA / PTB) is a Communist Party on the far
left that, unlike other parties, acts as a party
throughout the country. The PVDA / PTB took office in
the Federal Parliament for the first time in 2014 and
went strong in 2019.