How COVID-19 impacted the Belgian federal government

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Belgium has had a major impact on Belgian politics and on the negotiations for a functioning federal government cabinet. This has led to some unprecedented measures and developments in the country’s history from a political and societal point of view.

From a care-taking government to full executive powers

On Monday 16 March 2020, the caretaking government of Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR, French speaking liberals) asked for full executive powers to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath. The day after, the caretaking government took an oath to the King, which officially put the Wilmès II-government in place. Later, PM Wilmès went to the federal Parliament to read the government declaration, emphasising the need for unity in these times of crisis.

The Wilmès II government consists of

· MR (French-speaking Liberals)

· CD&V (Dutch-speaking Christian democrats)

· Open Vld (Dutch-speaking Liberals)

Wilmès II is a minority government, representing 38 out of the 150 seats in parliament. Tomorrow, Thursday 19 March, during the vote of confidence in plenary, the Wilmès II-government will receive support in parliament from opposition parties PS, sp.a (Socialists), Ecolo-Groen (Greens), cdH (French-speaking Christian democrats) and DéFi (French-speaking federalists). After this vote of confidence, the government will have a majority support in parliament.

The government of Wilmès II will be in place for a period ranging from 3 to 6 months and will only be tackling COVID-19-related issues with €1 billion allocated to this particular objective. For all other matters, the care taking role of a government in current affairs will be respected.

After the vote of confidence, the government will ask for full executive powers, so it can quickly respond to the developments of the COVID-19 crisis. In order for the government to receive these full executive powers, the parliament will have to vote tomorrow as well.

Yesterday evening, Tuesday 17 March, after a meeting with the National Security Council, the newly established government communicated on its first decision : a series of strict measures putting the country in an almost lock-down situation, where social distance and unity are key to tackle the pandemic and safeguard our social and economic system.

If you would you like to know more about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Belgian politics, do not hesitate to contact us!