The Belgian Government continues to wobble. Having refused to propose a confidence motion for his minority government, Prime Minister Charles Michel is now struggling to pass a budget. The N-VA were in favour of the budget when they were in government, but now that they have quit, they’ve decided that they don’t like it any more.
As the Prime Minister had anticipated that the budget probably won’t be approved by a majority of MPs, he proposes working with so-called “provisional twelfths”, a system that would see the federal government having one twelfth of this year’s budget being put at its disposal every month between now and the elections next May. However, this would mean that between now and then the government would have to seek parliament’s approval every month for the “provisional twelfths”. The Prime Minister called on MP to “act responsibly”.
The alternative is an early election, which no-one wants, not only because it would mean the political parties would be trying to form a coalition while campaigning against each other in the EU elections, but also because whichever party brings down the government is likely to be punished at the polls for dragging voters out yet again.
But with the Socialist and Green parties threatening a vote of no confidence, Michel has called their bluff by resigning.
The king is not obliged to accept the resignation and is now talking with other political leaders before deciding what to do next.
King Filip could ask Michel to remain as leader of a caretaker administration, which would be able to execute decisions already made by Parliament, but would not be able launch any new initiatives. If Michel refuses, the king could either nominate someone else or instruct the government to call an early election.
If a caretaker administration is proposed, Parliament could still table a vote of no confidence, dissolve itself and trigger new elections. But they probably won’t.
Either way, nothing much is likely to happen before the new year but it looks like Charles Michel’s unlikely administration has finally run out of road.