Deadline for coalition talks in Belgium arrives

Belgium’s two main political parties—the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the francophone Socialist Party—face a deadline today from King Philippe to

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Photo: Didier Lebrun/Pool via Reuters

Belgium’s two main political parties—the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the francophone Socialist Party—face a deadline today from King Philippe to find consensus for a government.

Belgium has been run by a caretaker government since December 2018. After federal elections in May 2019 failed to break the impasse, the country has been led by a minority coalition with Sophie Wilmès of the Reform Movement (MR) party serving as prime minister.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought renewed urgency to coalition talks. The caretaker government had previously lacked the authority to make critical decisions, limited instead to the day-to-day running of the country. The pandemic-induced need to undertake decisive action led the government to receive special powers, such as the power to institute financial support directives for vulnerable groups and delay tax obligations.

Although King Philippe has asked the leaders of the country’s largest political parties to find common ground, expect talks to founder. Any deal would significantly undermine Wilmès and the MR party, who would be pushed out of the government, while historical grievances between the two major parties mean Belgians will most likely go to the polls in the coming months in order to break the prolonged impasse.

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