Belgium on Sunday broke its own standing record for the longest political crisis and longest period without an elected government.
It has been 592 days since the previous government, led by former Prime Minister Charles Michel, collapsed over inter-party tensions on migration in December 2018.
Strained negotiations after last year’s elections in May have routinely collapsed as party leaders and several top government officials resign from their mission to steer the coalition negotiations.
The previous record for Belgium’s longest post-election period without a government stands at 541 days and ended with the swearing-in of Former Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo after a similarly convoluted negotiation period followed the June 2010 elections.
But the count swells to 589 if it is started on the day the previous elected government, led by Former Premier Yves Leterme, collapsed in a political turmoil that spurred a surge in popularity for the Flemish nationalist N-VA, giving way to a partisan standstill which was, until now, the longest political crisis in contemporary European history.
In the latest round of coalition negotiations, former royal informateurs George-Louis Bouchez and Joachim Coens, presidents of the Francophone liberal MR and of the Flemish, centre-right CD&V, were pushing to build a novel “Arizona” coalition.
But resistance to the MR from the N-VA, which gained massively in the elections, has brought the negotiations up against a new impasse which could potentially be broken if the Flemish liberals, the Open Vld, dropped their Francophone sister party.
In the most recent push to breed progress in the negotiations for a new federal government, King Philippe tasked the leaders of the two biggest parties in Belgium, the N-VA and the Francophone Parti Socialiste, with “taking the necessary initiatives to facilitate the establishment of a government-backed by a large parliamentary majority.”
King Philippe tasked the presidents of the Francophone liberal (MR) and Flemish Christian-democratic (CD&V) parties with a new report on a stage of the negotiations.
In light of the MR-N-VA standoff, the N-VA’s Bart De Wever and the Francophone Parti Socialiste’s Paul Magnette, are now turning towards the greens with hopes of creating a majority coalition.
Bouchez and Coens are set to deliver the report to the king on Thursday, 8 August.
Gabriela Galindo The Brussels Times
Update: This article has been updated to clarify the roles of George-Louis Bouchez, Joachim Coens, Bart De Wever and Paul Magnette in the ongoing government formation process.