As expected, the federal parliament yesterday approved a motion of confidence in the new government led by prime minister Alexander De Croo (Open VLD). The new government can now officially take office, 495 days after the last general election.
The vote of confidence is the last step in the tortuous business of creating a majority government in Belgium.
This new coalition is made up of no fewer than seven parties: two liberal, two socialist, two green and one Christian democrat. Apart from the Christian democrat CD&V, the seats of the other six parties were required to make a majority of the 150 seats in the chamber.
The vote, for all that it was a foregone conclusion, came as the culmination of the presentation to the assembly of the new government’s plans for the remainder of the legislature.
That took 15 hours, in the unfamiliar surroundings of the hemicycle of the European Parliament, the only place where social distancing could be practised by such a large gathering.
In the end, the vote came down to 87 for and 54 against, with seven abstentions from the cdH and DéFI. Those voting against came from N-VA, Vlaams Belang and the two left-wing workers parties PVDA and PTB.
For N-VA, fraction leader Peter De Roover accused the new ministers of timidity.
“I have the impression the ministers were not wearing a mask, but a muzzle,” he said.
“They have been silent. In 2014, members of the government, including the newcomers, did not hide behind the Prime Minister’s back. When we talk about new political culture, this has been a very bad start.”
Barbara Pas of Vlaams Belang promised Flanders would take its revenge on the De Croo government, whose members represent a minority of the Flemish vote.
“Your government has no democratic legitimacy in Flanders,” she said.
“You say that in this government, everyone will be listened to. Well, it is all very well that you people listen to each other, but the voter was not listened to. After this it is done with Belgium and then we can finally move forward with Flanders and Wallonia.”
After the vote, De Croo posted on Twitter: “Thank you for your confidence. Now let’s get to work!”