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Modern Europe

Confirming a Belgian Prime Minister

by William Willems, 2 October 2020

The process of confirming a new prime minister in Belgium today is fraught with difficulty, not least because the two main communities - Flemish and French-speaking - struggle to agree on candidates.

Following federal elections in Belgium, the king firstly appoints a so-called 'Informateur', who is not necessarily from one of the winning political parties.

This informateur is invited to the palace and receives their orders to check through the available possibilities in terms of the formation of a new government. Therefore they talk to all the political parties and look for potential combinations which will be able to form a majority in the chamber of representatives according to the results of the federal elections.

After a period of time which is defined by the king, the informateur is invited back to the palace. If they are able to bring with them some positive news, the king then decides to appoint one or two 'Preformateur(s)' who will be invited to the palace and, after some time... the process continues, repeated again.

Again the preformateur (or preformateurs) holds discussions with some of the political parties (and perhaps all of them). Finally, when everything appears to be working well, the preformateur can bring positive news to the king, who will appoint a 'Formateur'.

Normally the king will appoint the formateur as the next prime minister who will then compose a new federal government.

When either the informateur or preformateur are unable to formulate a solution, they can return their appointments to the king who may either refuse or accept. If the king refuses, he may ask them to extend the initial period of their search. When even this does not work the king will appoint another informateur or preformateur (or again possibly two preformateurs, each from a different party). If he accepts the return of their appointments, he will appoint another informateur or preformateur.

After the same sequence of appointments is followed and assuming the preformateur is successful, the king will finally appoint the formateur.

The Belgian Senate building
Both the Belgian senate and the weightier chamber of representatives meet in the Neoclassical Palace of the Nation in Brussels, built by French architect Gilles-Barnabé Guimard during 1779-1783 towards the end of the existence of the Belgian Netherlands under Habsburg control


The elections of 26 May 2019

As of the start of September 2020 Belgium remained without a government after the federal elections of 26 May 2019 (!).

Such an exceptional length of time resulted in the equally exceptional appointment of two formateurs at the same time, something which may not have happened before.

One of them was expected to become prime minister, although perhaps no one accepted the probability as cast-iron fact. It could be imagined that the king met a large number of politicians over the preceding sixteen months.

Finally one of those politicians did indeed become the new federal prime minister, on 30 September 2020, which is four hundred and ninety-three days after the elections of May 2019.

The new incumbent's name was Alexander De Croo, a Flemish liberal politician, economist, and businessman. At the time De Croo was forty-four years old and was currently holding the office of deputy prime minister of Belgium, and minister of Finance and Development Cooperation.

 

 

     
Text copyright © William Willems. An original feature for the History Files.