No government suffering from obesity, nor a government on a diet

6th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

It took twenty hours and nineteen portfolios for party presidents to form the new federal government. As the Di Rupo government has no majority among Flemish MP's, the Flemish party presidents were dead set on preventing a French majority in the new federal government as well. The French-speakers on the other hand this additional Flemish demand was too much. So it all ended up in a typically Belgian compromise. The fact that the government contains seven French ministers and only six Flemish ministers, will be compensated for by four Flemish and only two French-speaking state secretaries. This ultimately implies that the next government will have nine French-speaking excellencies as opposed to ten Dutch-speaking; except that strictly speaking state secretaries do not form part of the cabinet and have no right to vote in it. The Di Rupo government of only thirteen ministers is the smallest one since World War II. It did however accept six state secretaries to meet Flemish demands, which is quite contrary to the initial intention of forming a government without state secretaries. Despite noble attempts to provide a good example with a downscaled cabinet in these times of stringent austerity measures, the Di Rupo government itself is not a successful example of this austerity. His cabinet is not much smaller than the Leterme government, and in the nineties a number of governments were even smaller. Indeed, It’s not easy to form a limited government team with six parties. Three things come to mind: firstly a large number of ministers from Leterme’s caretaker government have returned with key appointments offering only few surprises. Secondly there is the uncharacteristic allocation of a number of ministerial posts, with the traditionally Socialist portfolios ending up with the liberals, like the Pension portfolio that has been given to Van Quickenborne. Traditionally ‘liberal’ portfolios such as Economy and Finance have ended up with a Socialist Vande Lanotte and a Christian Democrat Vanackere respectively. Thirdly, the new administration will have a two-thirds male majority. The CD&V party, with its 60% female electorate, will have four males in government. This has already caused an outcry among members of the party’s organisation Vrouw&Maatschappij Woman & Society. It’s also significant to note that the Liberals in particular have been saddled with challenging portfolios like Justice, Asylum and Migration, Pensions, Foreign Affairs and Budget. With the limited responsibility for the Economy portfolio, Vande Lanotte SP.A will now have time to focus on his role as vice-premier. The CD&V Finance, PS Social Affairs beside the prime minister and CDH Foreign Affairs have each been given only one heavyweight portfolio. In fact, CDH scored particularly well for a party with less than 10% support. Finally putting a new government in place took formateur Elio Di Rupo and the six party presidents twenty hours of negotiations. It can hardly be called a change of style after the endless negotiations on state reform and the budget.

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