Why the Flemish government cannot fall (on the nitrogen agreement)
Although Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon planned to go to parliament on Wednesday with an agreement on nitrogen, the ruling parties still disagree on several points. Nevertheless, the ongoing wrangling over the dossier is unlikely to bring down the government, which is theoretically impossible in Belgium.
The Flemish parliament is a legislative government, meaning it is elected for a full five-year term, the length of a legislative period. Early elections to a regional parliament are theoretically impossible, not preventing the government from being toppled. This is possible after a 'constructive vote of no confidence', in which the Flemish parliament forces the government to resign.
The decision to appoint a parliament for an entire legislative period dates back to the 1980s when Belgium was experiencing one fall of government after another. Although the initiative was intended to create more stability, there is little at the Flemish level today. But there are advantages to such a system, Belgian legal scholar and professor emeritus at the Catholic University of Leuven, Paul Van Orshoven, tells VRT NWS. "You force the parties to come to the table. You can compare it to the conclaves that elect a pope or a jury in an assize trial."
However, in 2017, two years before the next elections, the Walloon government showed that an alternative majority is possible. The government was plunged into crisis after several scandals came to light.
There was the Publifin affair, in which it was revealed that some 20 local Walloon MPs from the PS, MR and CDH had pocketed thousands of euros from advisory councils that they sometimes did not attend. 2017 was also the year of the Samusocial scandal, a political and financial scandal in Brussels, which included the resignation of the mayor, Yvan Mayeur (PS).
As a result of this chain of scandals, CDH president Benoît Lutgen no longer wanted to work with the PS. As a result, Walloon prime minister Paul Magnette and his PS party were expelled from the Walloon government and replaced by the MR, which immediately took over the government's leadership with Willy Borsus.
According to Van Orshoven, this scenario is unlikely to happen in Flanders. "Vooruit, Groen and N-VA may be on the same side about the nitrogen dossier. But it remains to be seen whether the same applies to other issues. If there is an alternative at all, it has long been encrypted in the back rooms," he believes.
Meanwhile, a final Flemish agreement on nitrogen is expected, which will undoubtedly lead to much political discussion in the coming days. Although there is little chance that this issue will bring down the government.
#FlandersNewsService | Flemish Minister of Employment, Economy, Social Economy and agriculture Jo Brouns, Flemish Minister of Domestic Policy and Living Together Bart Somers, Flemish Minister of Welfare Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister of Education and Animal Welfare and Sports Ben Weyts and Flemish Minister President Jan Jambon pictured during a plenary session of the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, Wednesday 01 March 2023.
© BELGA PHOTO JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE