Consultation populaire et référendum en Belgique

Translated title of the contribution: Popular consultation and referendum in Belgium

Thibault Gaudin, Vincent Jacquet, Jean-Benoît Pilet, Min Reuchamps

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Popular consultation and referendum are two mechanisms of direct democracy. In both cases, the population is invited to vote directly on one or more specific issues in order to express its will, and the results are measured by the number of votes cast in favour of each option. However, the legal scope of the response given by the population differs significantly depending on the mechanism envisaged. In a popular consultation, the population is simply asked to express its preference between two or more possible decisions on a given subject; the result is a simple opinion, which the authorities are then free to follow or not. In a referendum, on the other hand, the population is asked to exercise decision-making power on a given subject; the authorities are then bound by the population's choice. In Belgium, the majority of legal doctrine considers referendums to be unconstitutional, regardless of the level of power concerned, since they are not provided for in the Belgian Constitution. On the other hand, after long debates and despite both political and legal resistance, the principle of popular consultation has become part of Belgian law: first at local level in the second half of the 1990s, then also at regional level in 2014 (as part of the sixth state reform). In contrast, the practice of popular consultation at federal level is still widely considered unconstitutional in Belgium, as it is excluded at community level. This Weekly Mail examines the evolution of the various normative frameworks that now allow (or prohibit) the organisation of popular consultations or referendums in Belgium, whether at federal level, at federated level or at local level (province, municipality, etc.).
Translated title of the contributionPopular consultation and referendum in Belgium
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)5-62
Number of pages58
JournalCourrier hebdomadaire du CRISP
Issue number2390-2391
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Belgique
  • Consultation populaire
  • Referendum


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