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BELGIUM

the end of the Constitutional crisis three years elapsed, marked by long Parliamentary discussions, by demonstrations on the part of the revisionists, and by strikes of a political tendency. The length of the debates was due to the divergent views of the parties. The Government and almost all the Catholics declared in favour of the adoption of the “ occupation and residence ” qualifications (as in England). The moderate Liberals proposed to refuse the franchise to the illiterate, and to such as were in receipt of charitable relief, public or private. The Progressists rallied round the Socialist watchword, “ universal suffrage.” On the other side, the problem had become considerably enlarged. M. Janson had only demanded the modification of Articles 47 (right of suffrage) and 53 and 56 (organization of the Senate). M. Beernaert thought that the revision should extend farther, in order that the new Constitution should have the same equilibrium as that of 1830, urging that it was necessary to have a counterpoise to democracy. He declared himself in favour of a complete reconstruction of the Senate, the qualification for election to it being fixed at 2116 f. a year, the election being partly direct and partly indirect, the establishment of the obligatory vote, and proportional representation. Finally, he demanded that it should be recognized as the prerogative of the Crown to take the opinion of the electors on the laws passed in Parliament or on Bills submitted for its deliberation. In order to carry these reforms, the revision of Articles 54, 57, 58, 26, and 48 was imperatively required. The Senate and the Chamber declared, in May 1892, that the time was come to modify the articles indicated by M. Janson and M. Beernaert. As prescribed by the Constitution, the Chambers were immediately dissolved, and two new Chambers elected. The Catholics had a majority in both, but not sufficiently large to enable them to dispense with the assistance of the Liberals, the Constitution requiring for every revision a majority of two-thirds. At the beginning of the final debate, which lasted from February until April 1893, M. Beernaert appealed to the “patriotic consensus” of the parties, a consensus which was not, however, conspicuous until the last moment, when, after the close of the general discussion, votes were taken successively upon the various Bills for extending the franchise. These were all thrown out (11th and 12th April). In view of this rebuff to popular aspirations, the Council of the Labour party proclaimed a general strike. Fifty thousand workmen struck work; in The Labour Brussels, violent demonstrations took place electoral1 revision.

streets an<

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> l collisions followed between the working-men and the constabulary. The like happened at Antwerp and Mons, where several strikers were killed by the gardes civiques. The agitation assumed a dangerous aspect, and the Government and the Liberal Progressist Opposition perceived that it was necessary to terminate it. Harmony was restored as the result of a compromise proposed by M. Nyssens, Catholic Deputy and professor at the University of Louvain, who had already mooted the idea in a pamphlet published in 1890, and on 18th April the Chamber adopted the new Article 47 by 119 votes to 14. The new article introduced an electoral system until then unknown— le suffrage universel plural. Every Belgian citizen became an elector on attaining the age of 25 years, and one or two supplementary votes were conferred upon him under certain conditions. Hereupon the General Council of working men, while keeping universal suffrage, pure and simple, still nailed to the mast, ordered a resumption of work. The revision of the other articles presented fewer difficulties. M. Beernaert withdrew his amendment giving the Crown the right to take the opinion of the constitu-

[history

encies, an innovation that seemed in the main contrary to the essence of a Parliamentary system, as well as dangerous to the Crown itself. But he obtained the obligatory vote, the possibility of introducing proportional representation, thanks to a redrafting of Article 48, and lastly some modifications in the organization of the Senate. The electoral age was to be 30 years, with a qualification of 1000 f., and twenty-six senators were to be elected by the provincial councils. The new articles were promulgated on 7 th September. The electoral laws had yet to be framed. M. Beernaert introduced the Bill for proportional representation, but, before it was set down for debate, it roused such violent opposition on the part of the faws**™1 Catholic majority that he resigned. The labours of the Ministry of M. de Burlet, which lasted from March 1894 to February 1896, were mainly directed towards the passing of electoral laws for the additions to the Senate and the Chamber (1894), to the Provincial Councils (1894), and the Communal Councils (1895). The general tendency of this legislation was to restrain the application of Article 4 as much as possible. The following conditions resulted from these laws. The citizen, in order to possess a vote for the election of representatives to the Chamber, was to be of a minimum age of 25 years, and of 30 years for the election of senators and provincial and communal councillors. A minimum of three years’ domicile was required for the communal electorate, and of one only for each of the others. For the four categories of elections a supplementary vote was given to (a) citizens who, having attained the age of 35 years and being married or widowers with children, paid at least 5 f. income-tax, and (b) to citizens of the age of 25 years possessing real estate to the value of 2000 f., or Belgian State securities yielding an income of at least 100 f. Two supplementary votes were bestowed upon citizens having certificates of middleclass education or upon such as were fulfilling functions and professions requiring the possession of such educational certificates. Moreover, for the communal elections a third supplementary vote was given to those who were in possession of real estate yielding an annual income of at least 100 f. It was thus possible to have at most four votes for the communal elections and three for the rest. The composition of the three electoral bodies for the year 1894-95 was as follows :—For the Chamber of Bepresentatives there were 1,354,891 electors with 2,085,605 votes, and 21 electors for each 100 inhabitants, giving 1*54 vote per elector. For the Senate and Provincial Councils there were 1,148,433 electors with 1,856,838 votes. Every 100 inhabitants had 18 electors, equal to 1 '62 vote per elector. For the Communal Councils there were 1,124,276 electors with 1,926,681 votes, and 17'6 electors per 100 inhabitants, equal to l'7l vote per elector. The communal law of 1895 introduced a system of partial proportional representation. Where none of the lists of candidates obtains half the votes, the seats are distributed among the lists that have obtained a certain number of votes (quorum). On the other hand, the laws of 1894 retained, in the case of the other assemblies, both the system of majorities and the scrutin de liste by arrbndissement or by canton. These legislative labours having been completed, all the elected assemblies were dissolved and reconstructed by universal suffrage. The Parliamentary elections of October 1894 sent to the Senate 71 Catholics, 29 Liberals, and 2 Socialists (in February 1900 the numbers were respectively 72, 29, and 1), and to the Chamber 104 Catholics, 28 Socialists, and 20 Liberal Progressists (in February 1900 the figures were respectively 112, 28, and 12). The main features of this election were the great strengthening of the Catholic majority, the advent of a compact body