Overview and context
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The Kingdom of Belgium is a federal parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy. The national government was created through the 1993 revision of the 1831 Constitution, which has been amended several times, most recently in May 2014. The national government is composed of three Communities (Flemish, French and German-speaking) and three Regions (Flemish, Walloon and Brussels-Capital), each with its own executive and legislative bodies. The Parliament, jointly with the King who heads the federal executive, have the right of legislative initiative. The Constitutional Court is the highest judicial body. On the federal level, the bicameral Parliament consists of a Senate representing the federated entities (60 seats; 50 senators from federated entities, 10 co-opted; elected for a five-year term) and a House of Representatives representing the citizens (150 seats; members directly elected by popular vote for a five-year term; proportional representation). The last federal election was held on 25 May 2014, and the next is scheduled for 2019.
The Constitution is the highest-ranking legal norm, followed by, in descending order, federal Special Acts (which require special majority and organize division of powers and operational rules of public institutions); federal Acts and federated entities’ Decrees and Ordinances (the legal value of the latter being restricted to the territorial boundaries of the concerned region); and royal, government and ministerial orders implementing the Acts or Decrees. In addition, an ‘Agreement on Co-operation’ can be adopted among the federated entities and the national government, and is often used in climate change policy in cases where actions need to be co-ordinated at the national level. A draft Act is voted in plenary session of one or both of the Parliament Chambers depending on its content. It is then transmitted to the King, who gives his assent and promulgates the Act after countersignature by the relevant Minister. The Act generally takes effect the 10th day after publication in the official Gazette.