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Belgium

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Politics and government of
Belgium



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The executive branch of the Belgian federal government consists of ministers and secretaries of state ("junior", or deputy-ministers who do not sit in the Council of Ministers) drawn from the political parties which form the government coalition. Formally, the ministers are appointed by the King. The Cabinet is chaired by the Prime Minister and the Ministers head executive departments of the government. They have no seat in Parliament. Some federal ministers do not have seats in the Parliament.

The number of ministers is limited to 15, with the same number of French-speaking and Dutch-speaking ministers (possibly without taking the Prime Minister into account), according to Art. 99 of the Constitution.

The Prime Minister and his ministers administer the government and the various public services. As in the United Kingdom, ministers must defend their policies and performance in person before the Chamber.

At the federal level, executive power is wielded by the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is President of the Cabinet. Each minister heads a governmental department. The Cabinet reflects the weight of political parties that constitute the current governing coalition for the Chamber. No single party or party family across linguistic lines holds an absolute majority of seats in Parliament.

The former Cabinet, the Verhofstadt III Cabinet, consisted of members of the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V), the Walloon Christian Democrats (CdH), Flemish Liberals (VLD), the Walloon Liberals (MR), and the Walloon Socialists (PS) and took the oath of office in the hands of the Belgian King on December 21, 2007. It was an interim government due to the difficult 2007 Belgian government formation and held office until March 20, 2008 when it was replaced by Leterme I.

The Leterme I held office until December 30, 2008 (see the accusation of political interference in the Justice: Fortisgate) and was replaced by Van Rompuy I.

Principal government officials

The new government, sworn in on November 25, 2009 consists of 15 ministers and 7 state secretaries including:

Minister / State Secretary Name Party
Prime Minister Yves Leterme CD&V
Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Finance and Institutional Reform Didier Reynders MR
Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Social Affairs and Public Health Laurette Onkelinx PS
Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Employment and Equal Opportunities Joëlle Milquet CdH
Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Budget Guy Vanhengel Open VLD
Deputy Prime Minister - Minister of Foreign Affairs and Institutional Reforms Steven Vanackere CD&V
Minister of Justice Stefaan De Clerck CD&V
Minister of the Interior Annemie Turtelboom Open VLD
Minister of the Self-employed, Agriculture and Scientific Policy Sabine Laruelle MR
Minister of Pensions and Big cities Michel Daerden PS
Minister of Defense Pieter De Crem CD&V
Minister of Climate and Energy Paul Magnette PS
Minister of Development Cooperation Charles Michel MR
Minister of Enterprise and Administrative simplification Vincent Van Quickenborne Open VLD
Minister of the Civil Service and Public Companies Inge Vervotte CD&V
State Secretary for Mobility Etienne Schouppe CD&V
State Secretary for Combating Fraud Carl Devlies CD&V
State Secretary for Finance Bernard Clerfayt MR
State Secretary for European Affairs Olivier Chastel MR
State Secretary for Disabled Persons Jean-Marc Delizée PS
State Secretary for Budget and Family Policy Melchior Wathelet Jr. CdH
State Secretary for Combating Poverty Philippe Courard PS

Formation

After the elections, the process of government formation starts. This process is based largely on constitutional convention rather than written law. The King first consults the President of the Chamber of Representatives and the President of the Senate. The King also meets a number of prominent politicians in order to discuss the election results. Following these meetings, an Informateur is appointed.

The Informateur has the task of exploring the various possibilities for the new Federal Government and examining which parties can form a majority in the Federal Parliament. He also meets with prominent people in the socio-economic field to learn their views on the policy that the new Federal Government should conduct. The Informateur then reports to the King and advises him about the appointment of the Formateur. However, the King can also appoint a second Informateur or appoint a royal mediator. The task of a royal mediator is to reach an agreement on contentious issues, resolve remaining obstacles to the formation of a Federal Government and prepare the ground for a Formateur. On July 5, 2007, King Albert II appointed Jean-Luc Dehaene as royal mediator to reach an agreement on a new State Reform.

The Formateur is appointed by the King on the basis of the informateur's report. The task of the Formateur is to form a new government coalition and lead the negotiations about the government agreement and the composition of the government. If these negotiations succeeds, the Formateur presents a new Federal Government to the King. Usually, the Formateur also becomes the Prime Minister.

In accordance with article 96 of the Belgian Constitution, the King appoints and dismisses his ministers. However, in accordance with article 88 of the Belgian Constitution, the King cannot act alone and all of his acts must be countersigned by a minister. In practice, the outgoing Prime Minister countersigns the Royal Order appointing the new Prime Minister. Subsequently, the new Prime Minister countersigns the Royal Order accepting the resignation of the outgoing Prime Minister and the Royal Orders appointing the other members of the new Federal Government.

The appointed ministers take the oath of office before the King. After they have taken the oath, the new Council of Ministers meets to draw up the declaration of government, in which the Federal Government sets out the main lines of the government agreement and outlines the government agenda. The Prime Minister reads the declaration of government to the Chamber of Representatives, which then holds a debate on the declaration of government. Following this debate, a vote of Confidence takes place. If the Prime Minister obtains the confidence of the majority, he can begin implementing the government agreement.

See also

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