Belgium is back to doing what it does best: running without a government.
Following in the footsteps of the political chaos that has gripped much of Europe, on Tuesday Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel became the latest political figure to fall after he tendered the resignation of his government when his liberal-led coalition lost its parliamentary majority and an appeal to lawmakers in Parliament failed to garner backing for a minority administration.
Belgium’s royal palace said in a tweet that the country’s king holds his decision on whether to accept the resignation “in abeyance.” The king could still keep Michel as premier in a caretaker government until a deal on a new coalition is brokered or elections are held.
Not surprisingly, the reason for the government's fall was the same one much of Europe's political establishment finds itself reeling three years after Angela Merkel unleashed the greatest threat to European politics in generations: mass migration.
Specifically, the fall of the Belgian government was the latest in a series of crises triggered over a non-binding United Nations-brokered accord on migration. Governments from Slovakia, to Estonia and Chile, have faced backlashes over a document that the UN says doesn’t encourage illegal immigration, nor does it force countries to change their admission policies, according to Bloomberg.
Similar to the UK, where migration was among the main reasons for Brexit and the political fiasco that has followed over two years later, Tuesday’s announcement in Brussels followed the submission of a no-confidence motion against Michel’s government by opposition parties, including Socialists and the Greens. Earlier in the day, Michel had vowed to press on with his minority government, calling for a “coalition of the willing” in Parliament.
In the end, the unwilling were a majority.
Michel’s administration earlier this month lost the support of right-wing New-Flemish Alliance (N-VA), its biggest Flemish partner, after the N-VA opposed the government’s backing of the UN’s so-called Global Compact on migration. The departure stripped Michel of his majority six months before a general election which was expected to be held at the end of May.
Luckily, Belgium is quite the veteran when operating without a government and is no stranger to political crises amid persistent divisions between its Flemish and French-speaking communities. After an inconclusive election in 2010, the country muddled through for 589 days without an elected government. In that period, the country recorded its highest economic growth of the decade.