Some Terms Explained


Brabant in Belgium

Brabant in Belgium

Brussels used to be the capital of the province of Brabant. But that province was split into 3 parts in 1995. The French-speaking part in the south became Walloon Brabant. The Dutch-speaking part in the north became Flemish Brabant. Brussels: a bilingual isle surrounded by Flemish Brabant, became a region of it’s own, not belonging to any province.

Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV)

BHV is a voting district. Before 2002 Belgium was divided into 20 voting districts. In 2002 the electoral law was reformed and the voting districts were enlarged. Since then, they correspond with the provinces. There is one exception however: in Brussels and the province of Flemish Brabant, the old voting districts were maintained.

In 2003, the Belgian constitutional court ruled that this was a violation of the constitution for 2 reasons:

  • While all other provinces consist of just one voting district, Flemish Brabant consists of 2. The constitutional court deemed this discriminatory.
  • Flemish Brabant is part of the Dutch speaking Flemish region, while Brussels is bilingual. As a result, BHV is a bilingual voting district that lies  partly in monolingual territory. According to the constitutional court, this is in violation with the articles of the constitution that divide Belgium in communities and regions.
Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde and Leuven

Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde and Leuven

The constitutional court gave politicians time until June 2007 to resolve this, but negotiations failed. All Flemish political parties demand the creation of a voting District Brussels and a voting district Flemish Brabant. All Francophone political parties oppose this demand, because it would mean politicians from Brussels would have a far smaller potential electorate.

After the elections of June 2007, the disagreement about BHV turned into a major political crisis. The deadline set by the court had passes and negotiations failed to produce a compromise. That’s why, in November 2007, Flemish politicians used their majority in the federal parliament to pass a law that would split the BHV voting district. However, each parliament in Belgium can pause the passing of a law, if they claim it is against their interests. That’s what the parliament of the French community did. The procedure to pass this law has now been suspended, probably for a long time.

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