Guide to Belgian politics

Politics in Belgium is complicated and biggest evidence of this fact is that the nation that holds the world record for time taken to form a government is Belgium.

The basics

Belgians will go to the ballots just in three months on June 9, 2024. They’ll vote for their regional and federal representatives as well as in the European Parliament election. Belgium has a federal system of governance, so whether you’re trying to find a school for your kids, need a license plate for your car, or report a hole in your street, it helps to know which government to turn to.

In Belgium, there are plenty of governments

Power is shared by and divided between the federal government, three regions (Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels) and three communities (French-speaking, Flemish and German). The communities have the responsibility of issues such as education, child care and culture. The regions are accountable for territorial issues such as mobility, environment and housing.

Here are two things that make governance extra complicated. There is no hierarchy in this system, hence the federal government lacks the authority to overrule any of the regional decisions. This means divergence sometimes leads to political paralysis. On top of that, lots of competences are mixed. In health care, for instance, elderly care and child care are community competencies, while hospitals are a federal matter.

If you reside in Brussels, you can rely on the French community to find a French-speaking school or the Flemish community to find a Dutch-speaking school. If you have to report a hole in your street, it is desirable to take it up with the commune or the government of the Brussels region. If you need a license plate, prepare yourself to deal with the federal government.

Official Languages in Belgium

Brussels is bilingual officially – French-Dutch. Dutch is the official language in the northern region of Flanders. French is the official language in the southern region of Wallonia, except for a small region in the east of the country, where German is the official language.

What is all this talk about dividing the country?

In the northern region of Flanders, there has long been a sustained independence movement that contends Belgium is an artificial construction and overly French-dominated. The main political objective of the two biggest Flemish political parties is additional Flemish autonomy. The far-right Vlaams Belang, which is presently leading in the polls, wants Flanders to gain independence.

National Flag