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Michel I Government
94th Cabinet of Belgium (since 1830)
11 October 2014
9 December 2018 (de facto) 21 December 2018 (de jure)
The government was sworn in on 11 October 2014, taking the oath of office before King Filip of Belgium. The four parties had a majority in the Chamber of Representatives with 85 members out of 150. On 16 October 2014, the motion of confidence from the Chamber of Representatives was approved by a vote of 84 in favour, 58 against and one abstention (by Aldo Carcaci, the People's Party MP).
The government's number of seats was reduced to 83 when two N-VA members, Hendrik Vuye and Veerle Wouters, left the party in September 2016.
The government consists of a centre-right coalition of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V), the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld) and the Reformist Movement (MR). It is nicknamed "Swedish coalition" inasmuch as the party colours yellow (N-VA) and blue (liberal, i.e. MR and Open Vld) and the cross (Christianity, i.e. CD&V) are combined on the Swedish flag. Initially (given doubts about its durability) the government was also called a "kamikaze coalition", inasmuch as the MR is the only French-speaking party in the coalition.
For the first time in 25 years, the French-speaking Socialist Party did not become a part of the federal government, whereas the Flemish nationalist N-VA helped form a government for the first time. Initially no French-speaking party wanted to partner with the N-VA, but in negotiations MR agreed to do so on the condition that the government's focus would be on socio-economic issues and that no "community-related" issues (as arise in the complex Belgian federal system) or constitutional reform plans would be part of the cabinet programme.
Policies and events
Despite three parties (all but N-VA) having been part of the preceding Di Rupo Government as well, the programme of this coalition differs substantially from the previous one. The emphasis is on socio-economic reforms, especially through austerity measures. Important goals for the parties include helping businesses become more competitive, and increasing job growth.
The announced measures were met by protests primarily from the labour unions, which argued that the measures favour employers and disproportionately burden employees and families. The unions, ACV/CSC, ABVV/FGTB and ACLVB/CGSLB, which play an important and institutionalised role in Belgium's political process, did not accept the government's offer for dialogue, maintaining that the government was not seriously inclined to reconsider any of the measures. Instead, the unions organised several regional and national strikes in November and December 2014, culminating in a one-day general strike on 15 December.
One of the federal executive's flagship measures is the tax reform, or tax shift , aimed, among other things, at reducing the cost of labour . It takes effect on January 1, 2016.
Following the March 22, 2016 attacks in Brussels, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens submitted their resignations. They were refused by the Prime Minister.
Another reform of the executive consists of increasing the age of retirement. It will thus increase from 65 to 66 in 2025 and from 66 to 67 in 2030 in order to finance the future cost of pensions. This measure, strongly criticized by the unions, provoked numerous strikes and demonstrations.
An often recurring subject was whether or not a capital gains tax should be introduced, together with a general tax reform. In the summer of 2017, the corporate gains tax was announced to be reduced from 33.99% to 29% starting 2018 and further down to 25% from 2020 whereas a capital gains tax of 0.15% on gains on financial securities was introduced for wealthier citizens holding accounts of at least 0.5 million Eur in value. Meanwhile the first 627 Eur of income through dividends became tax exempt.
Other measures taken by the government include the purchase of F-35s to replace the Belgian army's F-16s, the abandonment of nuclear power by 2025, the removal of abortion from the penal code and the launch of a public investment pact in cooperation with the private sector.
In December 2018, a political crisis emerged over whether to sign the Global Compact for Migration; N-VA was against whereas the other three parties supported it. On December 4, the Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, announced that the issue would be taken to parliament for a vote. On 5 December, parliament voted 106 to 36 in favor of backing the agreement. Michel stated that he would endorse the pact on behalf of the parliament, not on behalf of the divided government. Consequently, N-VA quit the government; the other three parties continue as a minority government (Michel II).
On 18 December 2018, Michel submitted the cabinet's resignation to the King, who accepted it on 21 December.
The Constitution requires an equal number of Dutch- and French-speaking ministers (regardless of the Prime Minister). Since MR is the only French-speaking party, it has more ministers than it would otherwise get with its electoral weight; this is compensated by having only Dutch-speaking Secretaries of State.
On September 21, 2015 it was announced that minister of Budget Hervé Jamar (MR) would resign to become governor of Liège. He was succeeded by Sophie Wilmès (MR).
On March 25, 2016, in the aftermath of the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels, Interior Minister Jan Jambon and Justice Minister Koen Geens both offered their resignation over their failure to detain one of the suspects, Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, despite warnings from Turkey's government in 2015. Michel rejected both resignations and the government's composition remained unchanged.
On April 15, 2016, in the aftermath of the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels, minister of mobility Jacqueline Galant (MR) resigned, after it became known that prior to the attacks she had received a summary of a damning European Commission report (2015) on security at Belgian airports. Two days later she was replaced by François Bellot.
On February 20, 2017, Elke Sleurs (N-VA) announced she would leave her position as Secretary of State for Equal Rights, Disabled Persons, Scientific Policy, Urban Policy and fighting Poverty to become lijsttrekker in Ghent for the upcoming 2018 municipal elections. Three days later, the N-VA decided to replace Sleurs with Zuhal Demir. Demir was sworn in by the King on 24 February 2017.