The composition of the Senate

A federal assembly

The revised Constitution of 1993 drastically changed the composition of the Senate.
Since the elections of 21 May 1995 there are not only fewer senators, but the Senate itself is composed differently.
The number of senators, excluding the senators appointed by right, was decreased from 184 to 71..

New : the community senators

The composition of the Senate was adjusted to the new federal reality.

The former provincial senators (*) have been replaced by a new group of senators, who are appointed by and from the community councils.

The Flemish and French communities are equally represented in this group with 10 community senators each. The German community appoints 1 community senator.

No Senate of the federate entities after all

The new Senate does not completely represent the federate entities, as is the case in some other federal states.

More than half of all senators are directly elected at federal level.

Moreover, 10 senators are co-opted.

There are not that many community senators : 21 out of 71.

Consequently, the protection of minorities is a matter for the linguistic groups. For this purpose they have access to the "alarm procedure" (**) and the system of the special majority vote (***).

Beside that, at least 1 Dutch speaking senator and at least 6 French speaking senators must, on the day of their election, reside in the bilingual region of Brussels-Capital.

Before now
Chamber 212 150
Senate 184 71
Councils 0 172
Council of the Brussels-Capital Region 75 89
Council of the German Community 25 25
Total 496 507

Linguistic groups

For the instances prescribed by the Constitution, the Senate is divided into two linguistic groups.

The Dutch linguistic group consists of 41 senators:
  • 25 senators, directly elected by the Dutch speaking electoral college speaking electoral college;
  • 10 senators assigned by the Flemish Council;
  • 6 senators co-opted by both the above groups.
The French linguistic group consists of 29 senators:
  • 15 senators directly elected by the French speaking electoral college speaking electoral college;
  • 10 senators assigned by the French community Council;
  • 4 senators co-opted by the above groups.

Four categories of senators

Of the 71 senators, 40 are directly elected, 21 assigned by the Community Councils and 10 are co-opted.

40 directly elected senators

For the election of the 40 directly elected senators, the electorate is divided into two electoral colleges, just like for the elections to the European Parliament.

The Flemish electoral college elects 25 senators and the French electoral college 15.

These senators are elected on the same day as the members of the Chamber of representatives for a period of four years.

21 senators assigned by the Community Councils

The Flemish Council and the French Community Council each designate 10 of their members as Senators. The German Community Council designates 1 of its members as Senator.

These 21 senators hold a double mandate.

10 co-opted senators

The Dutch speaking senators of the two previous groups assign 6 members. The French speaking senators of the two previous groups assign 4 members.

Senators appointed by right

These are the children of the King who are over 18 years of age, or in the absence of children, the Belgian descendants of the branch of the royal family called on to reign.

Senators appointed by right are entitled to vote when aged 21; they are not taken into account for the determination of the quorum of attendance.

* Provincial senators were assigned by the provincial councils

** Alarm procedure = parliamentary procedure to prevent linguistic discrimination; when ¾ of the members of a parliamentary linguistic group judge that a bill is discriminatory, the procedure can be deferred; afterwards, the Council of Ministers (= the federal Government), which is always 50/50 French/Flemish must present motivated advice

*** Special majority vote = to make amendments to the basic legislation concerning the organization of the State there must be a majority within each linguistic group. Furthermore, 2/3 of all the votes must be in favor.

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