Belgium Constitution and Administration
Belgium which, by virtue of the Treaty of London of 19 May 1815 until 1830 had been part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, on 4 October 1830, following the August revolution, proclaimed its independence and constituted a monarchy, called to the throne (June 4, 1831) Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. With the London Treaty of November 15, 1831, Austria, Russia, Great Britain and Prussia guaranteed its neutrality. The new kingdom, however, was recognized by all the states of Europe only after the Treaty of London of April 19, 1839, which also fixed its borders. Its neutrality was then abolished by the Treaty of Versailles of 28 June 1919, which also attributed the territories of Moresnet, d’Eupen and Malmédy to Belgium.
The Belgian constitution approved on February 7, 1831, was then modified with the laws of September 7, 1893, November 15, 1920 and February 7, August 24 and October 15, 1921. It can be revised; but not by the chambers that have ordered the revision, and the changes must be approved by not less than 2/3 of the members of the chambers present, and with a majority of 2/3 of those present. In fact, it remained unchanged until 1893; and the changes introduced in that year, and then in 1920 and 1921, almost exclusively concern electoral reforms.
Belgium is a representative constitutional monarchy. The crown is hereditary in the direct descendants of King Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, from male to male and by order of birthright; in the absence, however, of male descent, the king can, with the consent of the chambers, appoint his successor. Legislative power is exercised collectively by the king, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Executive power belongs to the king. The chambers meet annually no later than the second Tuesday in November: the king has the right to convene, extend and dissolve them, but they must remain together no less than 40 days each year. The initiative of the laws belongs to each of the three organs of the legislative power.
The House of Representatives now has 187 members (approximately one for every 40,000 residents), who must be 25 years of age and are elected for 4 years. Until the reform of 7 September 1893 – which almost tenfold the number of voters and instituted multiple voting – the elections were held under the census regime. The law of 29 December 1899 introduced proportional representation and that of 7 February 1921 universal suffrage, so that all male citizens who have reached the age of 21 are voters. The constitution provides that, by law, the electoral right can also be granted to women: currently the widows and mothers of soldiers who died in war benefit from it.
The Senate is made up of 153 members appointed, even for 4 years, from among citizens who have reached the age of 40, and who have the other financial or cultural requisites required by the constitution, which for this purpose has established 21 categories of eligible candidates. Of these 93 are nominated by the constituencies, like the deputies, 40 by the provincial councils (i for every 200 thousand residents) and 20, by co-optation, by the senators of the first two groups.
As head of executive power, the king appoints and dismisses ministers; one of them need the trust of the two chambers, and can be indicted by the House of Representatives; in which case they are judged by the Court of Cassation. Belgium currently has the following 10 ministries: justice, interior and hygiene, science and arts, foreign affairs, national defense, agriculture and public works, marine railways, telegraphs, telephones and aeronautics, colonies, industry, labor and social security. The law of November 18, 1918 established the post of prime minister.
The territory of the kingdom is divided into provinces, the number and limits of which are fixed by law. There are currently 9: Antwerp, Brabant, West Flanders, East Flanders, Hainaut, Liège, Limburg and Namur. For Belgium political system, please check computerminus.com.
In turn, the provinces are divided into districts (26 in all), into cantons (237 in all; but the division has mainly judicial and electoral purposes) and into municipalities (2671 in 1926). The provinces and municipalities enjoy a great deal of autonomy. At the head of the province is a governor, appointed by the king. There is also a provincial council, the number of whose members varies according to the population. They are elected for 4 years by all citizens – men and women – who have the political electorate. The said council, in addition to administering the particular regional interests, has general and political functions: for example. appoints some members of the Senate and presents candidates for the high judiciary. The council elects a permanent deputation made up of 6 members and chaired by the governor. At the head of each district there is a government commissioner, who has the task of supervising the management of the municipalities. In each municipality there is a municipal council composed of the burgomaster – nominated by the director – of scabini and councilors, whose number is in relation to the population of the municipality, and who are elected for 4 years, with the system of proportional representation, by all citizens – without distinction of sex – who have reached the age of 21 (law of 15 April 1920). A scabinal college is then elected within the municipal council – chaired by the mayor – which is the depositary of the executive and administrative power. Provinces and municipalities by express provision of the constitution (see also the law of 1 March 1922) can join together for the management of common interests. and who are elected for 4 years, with the system of proportional representation, by all citizens – without distinction of sex – who are 21 years old (law of 15 April 1920). A scabinal college is then elected within the municipal council – chaired by the mayor – which is the depositary of the executive and administrative power. Provinces and municipalities by express provision of the constitution (see also the law of 1 March 1922) can join together for the management of common interests. and who are elected for 4 years, with the system of proportional representation, by all citizens – without distinction of sex – who are 21 years old (law of 15 April 1920). A scabinal college is then elected within the municipal council – chaired by the mayor – which is the depositary of the executive and administrative power. Provinces and municipalities by express provision of the constitution (see also the law of 1 March 1922) can join together for the management of common interests.
The judiciary is considered by the constitution as one of the powers of the state. Justice is administered: by a court of cassation, based in Brussels, by three courts of appeal, based in Brussels in Ghent and Liège, by 26 courts of first instance and by 231 justices of the peace, one for each canton. There are also 9 courts of assizes, one for each province, 14 commercial courts and 32 industrial courts. All the magistrates are nominated by the director; but the councilors of cassation are appointed on the basis of two lists presented, one by the Senate and the other by the Court of cassation; and the councilors of the court of appeal, as well as the presidents and vice-presidents of the courts of first instance, on the basis of two lists presented, one by the said courts and the other by the provincial councils. Administrative disputes are governed by special rules. Financial control is exercised by the Court of Auditors, whose members are appointed by the House of Representatives.
Public assistance is very well regulated: for this purpose a public assistance commission is set up in each municipality, which administers considerable funds from various sources.