National Politics

National Politics
   Following Belgian independence in 1830, Brussels emerged early as a stronghold of the Liberal Party, which was founded in the city as the Alliance Libérale. It became the Liberal Party (Parti Libérale) following the first party congress held at the Hôtel de Ville on 14 June 1846. Until the late 1960s, traditional anticlerical bourgeois liberalism retained a strong base in the metropolitan area. The rise to power of a Catholic government from 1884 to 1914 led to 30 years of antagonism between Liberal-led city governments and national authorities. The city witnessed massive demonstrations in favor of broadening male suffrage, notably the "Oath of Saint-Gilles" (Serment Saint-Gilles) on 10 August 1890 when 80,000 gathered to petition for voting rights. In April 1893, a general strike was called to protest the slow pace of reform during which rioters smashed windows of the city's luxury stores. Burgomaster Charles Buls issued bullet cartridges for the first time to the civic guard, and he secured passage of an edict forbidding mass meetings and marches. Demonstrations against legislation favorable to clericals occurred in 1884, 1895, and 1899. Large-scale gatherings took place again in 1901-1905 and another general strike was held in April 1913.
   The Socialist Party (Parti Ouvrier Belge/Belgische Werklieden Partij) was founded at the Cygne guildhall on 5 and 6 April 1885. The party gradually secured working-class votes in Brussels, sending five representatives to parliament for the first time in 1900. During the interwar years, neither Catholics, Liberals, nor Socialists predominated, each party garnering about a quarter to a third of the vote in parliamentary elections in the metropolitan area. Liberal strength waned following post-World War II intraparty splits, was shattered in the 1970s over issues of federalization, and has since recovered modestly, winning approximately a quarter of area votes. The 1960s saw the division of national parties into separate linguistic wings and the rise of parties appealing to local area interests, notably, in greater Brussels, the Front démocratique des Francophones. Many special interest and community-based parties subsequently appeared, including the Greens, the Vlaams Blok, and others.
   In general, centrist parties have traditionally done well in Brussels with extremists such as the Communist Party and the National Front, and issue-based parties, such as the Greens, obtaining less than 10 percent of the vote.
   Throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, city authorities sought to secure national legislation that would allow differing degrees of metropolitan government, including annexation of territory and intracommunal agreements, as well as laws to secure supplemental revenue sources. As the national capital, the city housed many national ministries and offices, and the city secured meager sums from these properties. City staff were called on to provide services (police, fire, etc.) in connection with national and international activities. Forced to bear the cost of doing so, municipal officials carried on often stormy relations with national authorities in waging relentless efforts to obtain satisfactory compensation. Feder-alization has led to settlement of the metropolitan government issue and regularization of financial relations.
   Under Belgium's federal constitution, the Brussels area forms part of the electoral district (arrondissement, arrondissement) of Brus-sels-Halle-Vilvoorde. The district includes 14 cantons of which eight are located entirely within the Brussels Capital Region, namely, An-derlecht, Brussels, Ixelles, Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, Saint-Gilles, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Schaerbeek, and Uccle. The district elects 22 deputies to the Chamber of Representatives. It sends 16 senators to the federal Senate.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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