Belgian government collapses over UN Migration Pact

Belgian Prime minister Charles Michel lost his majority after a clash with the right-wing N-VA party over the UN Migration Pact. After a death struggle, the King accepted the government's resignation.

Marjan Justaert
Marjan Justaert De Standaard, Belgium
Source: De Standaard
Belgian government collapses over UN Migration Pact - NewsMavens
Charles Michel. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

A dispute in Belgium's center-right government about the UN Migration Pact ended with the Flemish nationalists of N-VA leaving the ruling coalition. Prime Minister Charles Michel was left with a minority cabinet, but still went to Marrakesh to ratify the UN pact with the support of the Parliament.

However, after the applause in Marrakesh, Michel faced a reality check: can he govern with a minority?

According to the opposition, he should face a vote of confidence in the Parliament, and if this happens he will probably lose. Constitutional experts are divided about the situation. Michel is trying to save his government and avoid a national election five months earlier than scheduled.

But considering how antagonistic the N-VA has become towards its former coalition partners, every scenario is possible.

In the meanwhile, the government collapsed again and PM Michel went to the King to resign.

The in-your-face N-VA campaign was the straw that broke the camel's back

  • In mid-November, the Flemish nationalists of N-VA said in De Standaard that they had "serious problems" with the UN Migration Pact, more than two months after Prime Minister Charles Michel pledged he would sign the pact for Belgium at a meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco, on December 10.
  • After a few days, the positions of all majority allies became even more difficult and media began to write about a possible end of the Belgian center-right government.The N-VA insisted that the non-binding Pact went too far and would give even illegal migrants in Belgium many additional rights.
  • On December 4, while Michel was fighting for the survival of his cabinet with N-VA, the right-wing party launched a social media campaign against the Migration Pact. The campaign featured pictures of Muslim women with their faces covered and claiming that the UN Pact was focused on enabling migrants to retain the cultural practices of their homelands.
  • The party quickly withdrew the campaign, but in the end it seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Michel announced that he would go to Marrakesh anyway, and that he would ask the position of the Parliament. Two days later it was quite clear that the N-VA stood alone.
  • On Saturday, December 8, the N-VA quit the coalition. Michel relaunched his government on Sunday as a minority administration and took off for Marrakech.
  • But once back home, he faced a new problem -- whether or not to call for a vote of confidence. Even members of his own cabinet are pessimistic. Everybody fears early elections, which would  only lead to wins for the far-right parties.
  • On December 18, it became clear that Michel would never have a majority in the Parliament, no matter what the issue would be. He decided to go to the King to announce his government's resignation. Three days later, the King accepted.
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