Sophie Wilmès has been sworn in before Belgium’s King Philippe to lead a temporary government capable of deploying all necessary means to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The investiture on Tuesday grants Wilmès and her cabinet with full powers for a period of six months, enabling them to take urgent and drastic measures to curb the pandemic without requiring parliamentary approval.
The move comes as Belgium seeks to ramp up its response to the advancement of the deadly novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in the country at the same time as the country nears one year without a full-fledged government.
A total of nine parties stated that they will support Wilmès as she faces a vote of confidence before the House of Representatives in order to seek a backing majority.
The nationalist Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) is the only one to have refused to support the move, calling it out as a sly move to “cheat” democracy by attempting to undo the results of the federal election.
“I support every wise measure against this terrible virus, stronger together,” N-VA heavyweight Theo Francken tweeted, adding: “I do not trust a minority government led by Wilmès.”
Ahead of the confidence vote on Thursday, Wilmès will on Tuesday address lawmakers and a debate on the vote is set to take place on Wednesday, with the conditions of the debate against the backdrop of social-distancing measures not specified.
A successful outcome for Wilmès on Thursday would enable her to see Belgium through the major public health crisis and attempt to contain the most immediate economic consequences of the pandemic, which hits Belgium at a time where its public coffers are already severely depleted.
After the six-month period, provisions were put in place to organise a new vote of confidence, which could lead to its investiture as an actual government or it being sent back to a government coalition, which in turn would send Belgium, and its government formation woes, back to square one.