The future of the Belgian monarchy: what will be the role of King Filip?
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo read out a statement in Parliament about King Albert's abdication.
Afterwards, the speakers of the different political fractions in the Federal Parliament had the opportunity to give their personal view on how the role of the monarch should develop.
Mr Di Rupo said that it was "an emotional moment" when King Albert informed key ministers about his intention to step down. He was first informed personally by the king, who asked Mr Di Rupo to call his key ministers to a special meeting. The meeting took place in the Royal Palace in Brussels yesterday afternoon.
A so-called Taskforce was launched to prepare the succession on 21 July. "Several departments will be involved. And of course, the national holiday will include several events."
Flemish nationalists: "Seize this opportunity"
Jan Jambon of the Flemish nationalists (N-VA) told parliament that King Albert's abdication offers the opportunity "to adapt the monarchy to the 21st century". The N-VA wants a reduction of the king's powers and of royal funds. "Let's seize this occasion with both hands."
The N-VA would like to go further though, getting rid of the monarchy altogether, although Jambon realises that this is a long way from home. "We support the system of a republic. However, the N-VA will not take the initiative to abolish the monarchy. We have respect for traditions and old customs. If there is no majority for a republic, we will accept the system of a kingdom. But don't ask us to be enthusiastic about it."
Things could change, but not in the short term
Most other parties (liberals, socialists, greens) agree that the king's power should be reduced, and that his functions should only be ceremonial. The Christian democrats are taking a more conservative stand on the matter. They are open for a debate, but point to the fact that the king's functions are already clear-cut.
It seems that there is majority to reduce the king's power, but the parties agree that this debate must be held in the next term, after a new government has been installed. Elections are coming up next May.
The king's functions: more than just ceremonial
For the moment, the king has a mainly ceremonial function, but it's a bit more than that. The king has to intervene when a new government has to be formed, by appointing a formateur or someone who has to take the initiative in the case of a deadlock. In times of long political crises, this can become an important factor.
The king also has to sign new laws, he is part of the country's executive powers together with the government, he is the commander-in-chief of the army, can appoint or dismiss ministers and grant a royal pardon to criminals or inmates.
[Flandersnews.be / Expatica]