BELGA/DOPPAGNE

Emergency government thanks to coronavirus crisis?

On Friday it emerged that the Francophone socialists of PS and the Flemish nationalists of N-VA were holding talks.  The development was unexpected after the PS let it be known on 14 February that they did not want to join a new federal government with the Flemish nationalists, Belgium’s biggest party.

You probably don’t need to be reminded that all efforts to form a new administration following the 26 May 2019 general election have failed. Can the coronavirus emergency trigger a breakthrough after all other pressing issues failed to lead a breakthrough?  On Friday Flemish PM Jan Jambon (N-VA) noted that the talks with the PS were moving in the right direction, while Walloon PM and PS supremo Elio Di Rupo took to social media tweeting Belgium’s national motto “Unity creates Strength”.

In law no such thing as an emergency government exists, but the present coronavirus crisis could encourage politicians to take decisions they would not have contemplated before. Any emergency government would implement a limited package of policies e.g. sort the budget and address the coronavirus emergency.   It would require the backing of a majority in parliament.  If formed it could pave the way for an administration that serves until fresh elections are held at the scheduled time or brought forward.  

Belgium has experienced two emergency cabinets in recent times: in 2007 PM Guy Verhofstadt (Flemish liberal) was given a three-month mandate to tackle pressing social economic issues after protracted formation talks went nowhere.

In 1992, after a strong showing of the far right, Flemish Christian democrat Jean-Luc Dehaene headed an emergency cabinet, a scaled down government charged with tackling the budget and the national debt to get Belgium into the euro.