Talk about cutting things fine. After twelve attempts and just before the “we really mean it this time” deadline of 1st October, the seven parties involved in the current round of coalition negotiations have finally reached an agreement.
Belgium has been struggling to form a new federal government since the general election on 26 May 2019. Ever since the Flemish nationalists quit the cabinet in December 2018 Belgium has been administered by a minority government, for the past three months by a government with special powers to tackle the corona crisis that enjoyed support from the opposition benches.
That support runs out tomorrow, so we have only just avoided another election.
It should come as no surprise that Flemish Liberal, Alexander De Croo is Belgium’s next prime minister. He and Francophone Socialist, Paul Magnette have been leading the negotiations for this final stage. In principle, either could have taken the top job but, with the Francophone parties dominating a Flemish leader provides some balance. The same (in reverse) was the case when Charles Michel was chosen to lead the amazingly ill-described Kamikaze coalition in 2014.
This coalition has been more poetically dubbed the Vivaldi coalition on the basis that the four political groupings involved can be said to reflect the composer’s Four Seasons: red for the Flemish and Francophone Socialists; blue for the Flemish and Francophone Liberals; green for the Flemish and Francophone Greens; and orange for the Flemish Christian democrats.
At 493 days, these negotiations have been the second longest Belgium has seen. The government formation in 2010-2011 took longer.
But if you count from the collapse of the last government in December 2018, Belgium has broken it’s own record for the longest period without an elected government.
Congratulations all round!