Dispute over electoral district at root of Belgian stalemate
Belgian lawyer and political scientist Vincent Défraiteur (right) explains Belgian politics to visitors and staff at the Forum of Federations.
Vincent Defraiteur, one of the Forum of Federation’s Young Professionals, gave a lunch-and-learn presentation on May 28, 2008 titled BHV - Three Letters for a Belgian Nightmare. Mr. Defraiteur, a political scientist and lawyer for the Belgian legal firm JDDV Advocaten in Brussels, explained that the huge gains made by Flemish confederalists and secessionists in the Belgian general elections of June 2007 were the result of deep frustrations about the political stalemate concerning the electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV).
In a 2003 ruling, the country's Constitutional Court ordered the Belgian government to abolish the electoral district, which currently allows that district’s voters to choose their senators and EU representatives from either a French-speaking list or a Dutch-speaking list, even though the district is in Dutch-speaking Flanders. Mr. Defraiteur explained that the Constitutional Court ruled this discriminatory and called on the government to rectify the situation by July 2007 at the latest, either by allowing Flemings to stand for election in Wallonia, or by no longer allowing Walloons to do so in Flanders.
So, as Mr. Defraiteur pointed out, the discussions about the electoral district lie at the heart of the debate about the future of Belgian federalism. It symbolizes how entrenched the two Flemish and the Walloon communities have become.
Mr. Defraiteur spoke at the Forum’s offices in Ottawa.