Brussels Parliament Approves Special Ordinance on Referendums in Chaotic Vote

Sarhan Basem

Brussels (Brussels Morning) – The Brussels Parliament passed a special ordinance on Friday that would allow the region to hold non-binding public referendums on yes-or-no questions in the future, subject to certain conditions. The vote, however, was marked by confusion and controversy.

The ordinance initially passed with a majority vote. However, Parliament Speaker Rachid Madrane (PS) surprisingly called for a re-vote for unclear reasons. This led to extended discussions with legal staff and postponements. Ultimately, Speaker Madrane declared the ordinance not approved, citing a lack of the required two-thirds majority.

Calculating the Two-Thirds Majority

The confusion stemmed from the way abstentions were counted. Parliament services initially interpreted the 47 votes in favor, 8 votes against, and 20 abstentions as insufficient for a two-thirds majority, requiring 51 votes out of the total 75 members.

However, several members of parliament (MPs) pointed out that abstentions are typically not counted when calculating a two-thirds majority. With only votes for and against considered, the 47-to-8 ratio indeed represented a two-thirds majority.

Following intervention from Groen and Ecolo parties, and clarification from legal experts, the Speaker finally confirmed the ordinance’s approval at the very end of the session.

Accusations of Political Maneuvering

PS deputy Julien Uyttendaele alleged that his own party, the Brussels PS, attempted to block the ordinance due to a political disagreement with Groen and Ecolo. Uyttendaele claimed the PS miscalculated the majority threshold and ultimately failed in their attempt.

The Brussels Parliament attributed the confusion to a software bug in the voting system. The program designed to validate votes reportedly included abstentions in the majority calculation, leading to the initial error. The Parliament has since fixed the bug.

Next Steps

According to BRUZZ, Juan Ben Jumea (Green), co-sponsor of the ordinance, intends to raise concerns about the re-vote and the software malfunction at the next expanded bureau meeting.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.