Belgium's future after collapse of coalition

The government in Belgium has collapsed as a result of a row over the UN migration pact. The nationalist N-VA withdrew from the coalition on Sunday after Prime Minister Charles Michel insisted on backing the agreement. He now heads a minority government. Although Belgium is among the signatory states of the migration pact, for observers it is the far-right parties that have emerged victorious.

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Le Soir (BE) /

He who laughs last

Lawyer Franklin Dehousse explains in Le Soir who stands to gain the most from this affair:

“There will be hardly any winners except [the far-right, separatist] Vlaamse Belang. Organising a situation in which everyone is trying to trump everyone else on the topic of immigration risks further polarising Flanders - and thus all of Belgium. That won't make managing the economy and society any easier. What's more, in the last two years of growth other precious opportunities have already been wasted.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Why the N-VA withdrew

The N-VA bears full responsibility for the government's collapse, De Morgen is convinced:

“It's no coincidence that the N-VA's increasingly radical stance came after the local elections [on October 14] in which its voters abandoned it for even more radical right-wing parties. Similarly it was no coincidence that it was only after October 14 that the N-VA and its state secretary for migration were so rudely awakened by the UN migration pact, which ultimately led to its leaving the government. Michel II's minority government is embarking on an uncertain adventure. ... If panic and disunity strike we could be facing long months in an uncomfortable environment [until the planned new elections in May].”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Prime minister standing up to populists

The Süddeutsche Zeitung is pretty impressed that Charles Michel was willing to put his government at stake for saying yes to the UN migration pact:

“He has the backing of a majority in parliament, as a vote on Thursday confirmed. At the latest when the parliamentary elections in May take place it will be clear whether he also has the support of the people. Despite all the chaos Belgium is now facing there is a positive side to the situation: since the collapse of the coalition the pact, which isn't binding anyway, has barely figured in the discussion - but the question of whether it is right to stand up to the populists so firmly certainly has.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Michel lacks backing

De Volkskrant sees little chance of Michel being able to govern the country effectively until the planned elections in May:

“This will be a risky undertaking because it now needs the opposition's support for every decision it takes. True, Michel was able to garner that support for the UN migration pact, but when it comes to socio-economic issues things will be far more difficult. The Greens and Socialists made it clear on Sunday that Michel cannot count on their backing. So on such issues the N-VA will have to step into the breach from its place on the opposition benches. But the N-VA has other things to worry about in the coming months: May will see new elections and the [far-right] Vlaams Belang has already sharpened its knives.”