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Fall of the government – reactions at home and abroad

© Belga
Michel leaves parliament after resigning his government
© Belga

The resignation of the government led by prime minister Charles Michel has made headlines across the world, as well as in Belgium. The Michel government took office in October 2014, after months of negotiation among the political parties. It was due, according to law, to end in May 2019, but thanks to a dispute over migrants, ended on Tuesday.

According to the New York Times, Michel “submitted his resignation Tuesday in the face of a populist revolt over his migration policy, which opponents say threatens Belgian sovereignty,” passing over the fact that the resignation was triggered by the threat of two parties who had no opposition to the migration pact that caused N-VA to leave the majority coalition.

The paper quotes Koert Debeuf, a scholar of Middle Eastern Affairs, claiming that N-VA had forced the issue to stop voters moving towards the far-right Vlaams Belang. It also quotes CdH member Catherine Fonck blaming the Flemish nationalists: “The fruit of your government with the N-VA is fear among the population, the fear of people to lose what they have, the fear of migrants,” she said. “The N-VA seeks only one thing: to sabotage Belgium.”

“Belgium’s PM Charles Michel submits resignation amid migration row,” reported the BBC website. The Guardian put the blame on a no-confidence motion which was threatened by socialists and Greens, but never actually moved.

Le Monde, meanwhile, spoke of “great uncertainty” in Belgian political circles – always a safe bet for a headline – and predicted a government of current affairs – where no new business may be decided – up to the federal, regional and European elections in May 2019.

At home, the editor of Het Laatste Nieuws, Liesbeth Van Impe, gave Michel full marks for stamina, but “a solid fail for timing” in failing to keep his government going until the scheduled elections.

The editorialist of De Standaard also gave Michel a mixed review: “You have to give him credit for his guts: better to die like Houdini on the search for an escape route than as a lame lamb stunned by the N-VA,” Karel Verhoeven wrote.

The essence of the situation was summed up by Bart Eeckhout in De Morgen: “About the immediate future of our politics, nothing can be certain, other than that it is uncertain,” he wrote.

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times