10 months after polls, Belgium gets govt due to coronavirus

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Sophie Wilmes
Sophie Wilmes

BELGIUM’s caretaker Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes has been handed special powers to lead the country through the coronavirus outbreak, 10 months after inconclusive elections delivered poor prospects for a coalition.

King Philippe mandated Wilmes to form a government on Monday in Brussels, the Belga news agency reported, after seven opposition parties agreed to back her minority administration, itself composed of three parties.

Wilmes’ administration is limited to a maximum of six months and will be focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tripartite minority government commands just 38 seats in Belgium’s 150-member federal parliament.

Belgium has so far detected 1,058 cases of the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, with five fatalities.

Wilmes already introduced a partial lockdown on Friday, closing cafes and restaurants, and as of Monday stopping all teaching in schools.

The Belgian political landscape is highly fractured, with French-speaking south marked by post-industrial decline and a more prosperous Dutch-speaking north, where many demand greater autonomy or even independence.

This makes building a viable federal government ruling the two regions difficult.

The two biggest centrist parties, the French-speaking Socialists and the Dutch-speaking centre-right N-VA refuse to work together.

Wilmes is from the French-speaking Liberals. Belgian government formation tends to be a lengthy, complex process. In 2010, it took a record 541 days. (dpa/NAN)

– Mar. 17, 2020 @ 10:55 GMT |

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