Thursday

24th May 2018

Belgian king gives coalition-forming mandate to Flemish republican

  • The Flemish flag - In Flanders there is a strong demand to make the regions stronger (Photo: Aris Gionis)

Will the man who wants the end of Belgium be the next Belgian prime minister? In a land where absurdity is a form of art, it's not impossible.

King Philippe on Tuesday (27 May) asked N-VA chairman Bart De Wever to "inform" him about possible coalition governments, a first step to forming such a government.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

On Sunday Belgians not only voted for the EU Parliament, but also for the national and regional parliaments.

Belgium is a highly decentralised country, with powerful regional governments. On the Flemish (northern) side, there's a strong demand to make those regions even stronger.

The hardliners simply want to split Belgium, although nobody knows how to do that with the bilingual – and very rich and important – Brussels right in the middle of the country.

The winner of the elections is the devolution-minded N-VA. Until a few years ago, it was a small party of hardline Flemish separatists. Thanks to the immense popularity of party leader Bart De Wever, the party took about 32 percent of the votes in Flanders at the weekend. This makes it by far the biggest party in Belgium.

So it's only logical that the Belgian King first turns to De Wever to take the initiative in trying to form a new government. A new national/federal government, that is.

The king doesn't play any role in the formation of regional governments. De Wever had already started his attempts to form a Flemish government.

But things are never simple in Belgian politics. In his attempts to win the elections, De Wever didn't make many friends. And since in Belgium several parties are needed to form a government, that's a big handicap.

De Wever and his N-VA have no friends in the French-speaking south of the country (in Belgium political parties are active only in one part of the country, north or south, never both).

French-speaking Belgians don't want to see the end of Belgium, so they disagree with De Wever on an institutional level.

But De Wever also has enemies when it comes to economic policy.

In recent years N-VA has profiled itself as a very right-wing party, nice to employers, hard on the unemployed and migrants.

This is why De Wever is looking for coalition members amongst other right-wing parties in Belgium. The problem is he needs to find enough allies in the north and the south of Belgium for such a policy. And certainly in the south it's very unlikely he will find enough.

And so experts think his attempt to form a Belgian government will lead to nowhere. Belgium has a fine tradition of lengthy coalition-making. Following elections in June 2010, it took Belgian politicians a world record-setting 541 days to form a new government

The alternative to De Wever establishing a coalition is a more traditional set-up, a coalition of the three main political families: the socialist, liberal and christian-democratic parties in the north and in the south (in Belgium parties are regional, but most parties have a 'sister party' in the other region, forming a 'family').

This so-called 'tri-partite' has majorities on the national and all regional levels. The advantage of this is that it would mean the same coalition in all governments, both national and regional, leading to better cooperation between them. The disadvantage is that the national government would consist of six parties with quite divergent political visions.

And the most important consequence would be that the party which is by far the biggest, and which won the elections, would be sent into the dark caves of opposition.

Not very democratic, but that's the price for the complexity of Belgian politics.

Focus

Belgium, Spain, France field most senior MEPs in EU vote

Political parties in Belgium, Spain and France have put more experienced politicians on the ballot, while MEP candidates from the Czech Republic, Denmark and the Netherlands are the least experienced.

Brussels flightpath politics cause public furore

A recent decision to redirect flights over Brussels has caused uproar among locals and residents. But complicated Belgian politics means that solving the issue has become tangled up in the messy process of government-formation.

Focus

Anti-federalists nose ahead of liberals in EP

A last-minute decision by Flemish separatists to join the ECR group instead of Alde will mean more speaking time and better choice of committee seats for the anti-federalists.

Analysis

GDPR does not (yet) give right to global oblivion

The 'right to be forgotten' will become enshrined in EU law on Friday, but it is not yet clear to what extent it will apply. Will the EU's law determine how the internet looks globally?

News in Brief

  1. Gazprom accepts EU conditions on gas supplies
  2. Facebook tells MEPs: non-users are not profiled
  3. Commission proposes ending France deficit procedure
  4. UK households hit with Brexit income loss
  5. Report: EU faces 10% cut in steel exports to US
  6. Australia wants more access to EU agricultural market
  7. CV of Italian PM candidate under scrutiny
  8. Puigdemont Spain extradition rejected by German court

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Visegrad Four 'nothing to hide' on rule of law issue
  2. GDPR does not (yet) give right to global oblivion
  3. Privacy Shield less relevant given GDPR, says data chief
  4. Unknown academic to lead Italy into EU clash
  5. 'Killer robot' projects eligible for EU defence fund
  6. Funding for European values needs radical changes
  7. Feeble EU format deflates Zuckerberg 'hearing'
  8. Are EU data watchdogs staffed for GDPR?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight