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Belgium - Elections 2019

Prime Minister Charles Michel was left leading a minority administration 09 December 2018 after the Flemish nationalist party quit the ruling coalition over his support of a UN migration pact. The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the largest of the coalitions four parties, had earlier threatened to leave if Michel backed the accord, which has become a cause celebre for European anti-immigration parties. Belgiums King Philippe accepted the resignations of the N-VAs ministers after meeting with Michel at the royal palace. The move left Michel's liberal Reformist Movement (MR) along with his Flemish liberal Open VLD and Christian Democrats (CD&V) coalition partners with only 52 of 150 seats in parliament. The departure of the Flemish party meant Michel would lack a parliamentary majority for five months ahead of legislative elections scheduled for late May 2019.

Embattled Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel announced on 18 December 2018 that he would step down as leader of his country's government. The move came after he lost a vote of confidence in Belgium's parliament. The vote was brought forth by the French-speaking Socialist Party and the Green Party. Michel immediately notified King Philippe of his decision to step down. The resignation comes two days after demonstrations against the pact in central Brussels descended into scuffles, with police forced to use tear gas and water cannon to restore order. Thousands of people in the Belgian capital of Brussels recently followed the call of right-wing groups and demonstrated against the UN migration pact. According to police, about 5,500 people took part in the "march against Marrakech". After a debate in parliament where opposition parties refused to lend their support to allow his government to keep working until legislative elections in May 2019, Michel announced he would quit.

The Prime Minister had the political courage to sacrifice his alliance with the N-VA to support the Migration Pact. "The socialist and ecologist opposition wanted a trophy and got it, " said MR group leader David Clarinval. "There was a refusal of the outstretched hand when the Prime Minister was very far in concrete proposals " of cooperation with the parliament, including the reduction of VAT on electricity, purchasing power, the interprofessional agreement, added Mr. Clarinval. " It was understood during the break that the opposition wanted the head of the Prime Minister, it was confirmed with the announcement of the tabling of a motion of non confidence".

The Federation of Enterprises of Belgium (FEB) deeply regrets the situation of political uncertainty brought about by the resignation of the Michel government. " Entrepreneurs and investors have a horror of this, " said FEB boss Pieter Timmermans. "There were a lot of things that were almost tied up and they were waiting for approval in plenary, so how do you know what's going to happen now?" It's like reading in the coffee grounds," said Timmermans. "The current political situation is one of uncertainty, which is still hated by entrepreneurs and investors, which is unfortunate: the lack of treatment of files such as the inter-professional agreement represents a missed opportunity", according to the boss of the FEB.

The decision whether or not to hold early elections depends on the government, which has not shown the intention so far to go in this direction. Several parties have an interest in early elections. Or, in any case, should not be afraid, it is in the order Ecolo, Groen, the PTB. It is less obvious, the VLD was in the process of rebuilding. Finally, the N-VA. It remained down compared to its score of 2014 but remained ultra-dominant and politically almost inevitable.

N-VA had been part of Prime Minister Charles Michel's center-right coalition until December 2018, when it pulled out of government in protest of Michel's decision to sign Belgium onto the UN Global Migration Compact in an attempt to woo far-right voters. To avoid snap elections, King Philippe appointed a caretaker government with Michel at the helm that also includes the Christian Democratic CD&V and the centrist Open VLD.

Belgium was looking at a tough political as results of the country's 26 May 2019 national elections delivered fragmented results divided on language lines, with little political consensus. This prompted fears that Belgium could once again face a lengthy period without a government, as it did when 2010 elections led to a record-breaking 541 days without a government. Voting is mandatory in Belgium, and some 8 million voters went to the polls in the Flemish-speaking northern region of Flanders, the French-speaking southern area of Wallonia, and the capital Brussels, to elect their national and regional representatives at the same time as the country voted in EU elections.

The far-right Vlaams Belang party made major gains, jumping over 12 points to finish with 18.5% of the vote. However, most of Belgium's other parties have long maintained that they would not form a governing coalition with the right-wing populists. Despite this success, the more moderate Flemish nationalist party the N-VA looked likely to remain the largest party in parliament. However, it conceded defeat as it tumbled from 20.26% in the last election to just over 16% this time. N-VA tentatively suggested that it would be open to coalition talk with Vlaams Belang. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Michel's Francophone MR party fell to 7.5%, a loss of around 2 points, while Wallonia's Socialist party garnered 9.4% of the vote.

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