Belgium unites a number of people, notably Walloons and Flemings. The constitutional monarchy was first established in the form of a unitary decentralized state with provinces and communes by the Constitution of 7 Feb 1831. Reforms of 1893 (franchise), 1899, and 1921 (franchise) introduced proportional representation and linguistic equality. Since 1970, Article 4 acknowledges four linguistic regions and respective communities which were, after 1980 and 1988 revisions, empowered with autonomy encompassing exclusive responsibility for education (Article 24). A Belgian specialty is the alarm-bell procedure of Article 54, primarily designed to protect the interest of the French-speaking minority in federal legislation. Also, Article 99 provides for a language-mix of the Ministers. The so-called "Court of Arbitration," founded by the 1980 revision and inaugurated on 1 Oct 1984, developed into a Constitutional Court (Article 142).
The 1993 revision (signed 17 Feb 1994) redefined Belgium as a federal state (Article 1). The resulting institutional structure is highly complicated, comprising the federal level (House of Representatives, Senate, King), the community level (Flemish, French, and German Community Council, Joint Commission), the state-region level (Flemish and Walloon Region, Brussels-Capital), and finally the language-region level (Dutch-, French-, German-speaking, and Bilingual Region).
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