23rd Mar 2023

Belgium votes for new leader

  • EU aid commissioner Louis Michel's party lost Belgian elections. (Photo: EUobserver)

Belgium will get a new prime minister after the conservatives – led by the Christian Democrats – defeated the socialist-liberal coalition in a move that will see the end of Guy Verhofstadt's eight-year term in office.

Yves Leterme looks set to be the next prime minister of Belgium after his Flemish Christian Democrats CD&V and New Flemish Alliance N-VA emerged as the largest political formation with 29.6 percent of the vote cast on Sunday (10 June).

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Mr Leterme - born of Walloon and Flemish parents and who spent four years working in the European Commission - caused a minor controversy on Belgium's 175th anniversary last year when he said that the country's existence was an "historic coincidence."

The Christian democrat favours a further devolution of powers to Belgium's regions, which he believes will bring the country closer together rather than tear it further apart.

Flanders and Wallonia – the Flemish and French speaking regions respectively - have been at loggerheads over the transfer of funds from wealthy taxpayers in the more economically vibrant Flanders to Wallonia which trails economically.

Mr Leterme's party also advocates tax cuts and at the same time has pledged to increase child benefit.

Prime minister Guy Verhofstadt will offer the resignation of his government to King Albert II on Monday (11 June), clearing the way for new government negotiations to start.

"The electorate has voted for a change," Mr Verhofstadt said, according to EuroNews.

The far-right Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang gained ground with 18.9 percent but the party is likely to be kept out in the cold by their mainstream counterparts, the press reports.

EU aid commissioner Louis Michel who had taken leave from his EU duties to stand in the Belgian elections will return to his chores at the commission on Monday (11 June).

His liberal Mouvement Reformateur party is a coalition partner of the defeated liberal-socialist government.

Landslide victory for Sarkozy

In the meantime, voters heading for the polls in France with a great majority supported the party of their recently elected president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The conservative UMP seems to have cemented its dominant position in French politics after it won 39.5 percent of the vote in the first round of the parliamentary elections. A second ballot is due next weekend.

The socialists came second place with 24.7 percent, while centrist Francois Bayrou's Democratic Movement came third with 7.5 percent followed by the far-right Front National with 4.29 percent.

Belgium breaks own government formation record

Belgium has set a new national record for the longest period without a new government as parties are still trying to bridge their opposing views on state reforms five months after elections. In the meantime, Flemish parties have given their French-speaking counterparts an ultimatum.

MEPs press EU Commission over Qatari-paid business-class flights

Pro-transparency MEPs are asking probing questions into possible conflict of interest between a senior EU commission official and Qatar, following revelations his business class trips were paid by Doha while negotiating a market access deal for its national airline.


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