It is expected that caretaker finance minister, Alexander De Croo of the Flemish liberals (Open Vld), will be named by King Philippe as the new prime minister later today. The new coalition government will take over from the caretaker administration of Sophie Wilmes (Reformist Movement), which has guided Belgium through six months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following marathon discussions which started on Tuesday evening, a ‘broad church’ coalition of seven parties, known as the Vivaldi coalition, struck a deal early on Wednesday morning to form a new government. The coalition led by De Croo includes Flemish and Francophone Socialists, liberals and Greens (spa and PS; MR and Open Vld; Ecolo and Groen) and Flemish Christian democrats (CD&V). The agreement comes 493 days after the election on May 26, 2019, a period which has seen 12 ‘preformateurs’ attempt to form a coalition government and routinely fail due to party differences.

The new coalition excludes Belgium’s largest party at the 2019 elections, the conservative New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) Party which achieved 16 percent of the vote, as well as the right-wing Vlaams Belang (VB), Belgium’s second-largest party. The two groups have vowed to organize resistance to the government with N-VA leader Theo Francken promising to “fight this project on land, at sea and in the air.”

Alexander De Croo took to Twitter to thank all the negotiating parties for the agreement reached and claim that “talent wins games, teamwork wins championships.” Meanwhile, leader of the French-speaking Socialists, Paul Magnette, tweeted that he was on his way to deliver their report to the King and form a government.

The new government will have to tackle the coronavirus pandemic which has hit Belgium hard. The nation has one of the world’s highest Covid fatalities per capita, with the total death toll exceeding 10,000 on Wednesday.

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