Brussels: vote favouring removal of multiple office-holding “dangerous precedent”
Wednesday, 28 February 2018
The Brussels Flemish Christian Democrats deputy, Paul Delva, warned on Tuesday of the risk setting a “dangerous precedent”, which the adoption of an order on the removal of multiple offices would constitute. He is concerned that such an order lacks majority support in the Dutch-speaking community in the capital. In his eyes, this would constitute inappropriately resorting to the law which permits this scenario. Upon the occasion of the committee debate, the President of the parliament, Charles Picqué called for caution upon this matter.
On Tuesday, the committees meeting to discuss this, Internal Affairs and Finance, of the Brussels parliament had on their agenda several proposals focused upon partial removal of multiple office-holding, or complete removal of multiple office-holding for the functions of regional deputy and mayor, alderman or alderwoman or CPAS President.
The proposal by the Greens, the Socialists and DéFI (Democratic Federal Independents) goes the furthest. It aims for the removal of all scope for multiple office-holding of this type. The Reformist Movement’s (MR) proposal restricts the prohibition to deputies who may be tempted to jointly exercise an Executive mandate within a commune of more than 50,000 inhabitants. The Humanist Democratic Centre party (cdH) proposal anticipates an exception to the rule of the prohibition upon multiple office-holding, for a quarter of deputies.
However, during Tuesday’s exchanges the cdH decided in favour of complete removal between holding a parliamentary function and the position of mayor, alderman or President of CPAS simultaneously. The Centrist deputies also insisted upon the necessity of maintaining strong structural links between the region and the communes, in particular through the institutionalization of the Mayors’ Conference. This could be consulted, on a more systematic basis, by parliament and by the Brussels government, during the legislative and decision-making process of these two organs. Moreover, the cdH announced that it was introducing an amendment aiming to significantly reduce the number of communal positions able to be held simultaneously (for example municipal councillors and aldermen).
Matters of this type fall within the province of requiring a “special order”. Parliament must obtain a majority within each linguistic grouping. A majority around the Ecolo-Groen-PS-DéFI proposal is far from being achieved within the Dutch linguistic grouping, for which the Open Vld, the New Flemish Alliance and the Flemish Christian Democrats are not in favour.
In such a case, it is possible for a second vote to take place, a month after the first. A third of votes would suffice at this point within the linguistic group for which the first vote achieved a minority result.
This procedure was adopted at the beginning of the decade to avoid the ancestor of Vlaams Belang, Vlaams Blok, achieving its objective of blocking the Brussels institutions. Paul Delva did not fail to mention this point.
For the elected Flemish Christian Democrats, it would be particularly out of place to resort to this possibility not to save democracy, but to actually circumvent it. He warned that this “dangerous precedent would fundamentally call into question the ‘community voting equilibria’ in Brussels.”