The fall of the federal government after the financial crisis

The finan­cial cri­sis pro­duced unex­pect­ed polit­i­cal con­se­quences in Bel­gium. In the first days of the cri­sis, the main banks of the coun­try wit­nessed cash assets prob­lems and a peri­od of mis­trust in the pop­u­la­tion. Relat­ed to the sur­round­ing finan­cial events, some of them stood at the edge of bank­rupt­cy. This was espe­cial­ly the case of “For­tis”, one of the largest banks of Bel­gium, which also had activ­i­ties locat­ed in Lux­em­burg and the Nether­lands. Due to the urgent sit­u­a­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter Yves Leterme and the Min­is­ter of Finances took imme­di­ate mea­sures and decid­ed – with the sup­port of the fed­er­al cab­i­net – to nation­alise the Bel­gian parts of the bank (the oth­er parts being acquired by, respec­tive­ly, the Nether­lands and Lux­em­burg). But in its haste, the gov­ern­ment did not request the agree­ment of the stock­hold­ers of “For­tis” as a pre­con­di­tion for the nation­al­i­sa­tion. In the fol­low­ing days, the share lost almost all its val­ue and the dis­ap­point­ed stock­hold­ers decid­ed to go to court.

After a deci­sion of the court that was favourable to the gov­ern­ment, the deci­sion of the judges in the court of appeal gave rea­son to the stock­hold­ers: they should have been con­sult­ed dur­ing the nation­al­i­sa­tion of the bank. How­ev­er, in the fol­low­ing days, the head of the Brus­sels court accused the Prime Min­is­ter and his per­son­al aides of hav­ing tried to influ­ence the deci­sion of the judges. These facts have been wide­ly con­sid­ered as an inter­fer­ence with the jus­tice and a clear infringe­ment of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. The Prime Min­is­ter had no oth­er option than to present the res­ig­na­tion of its entire gov­ern­ment on the 21 Decem­ber 2008. The King gave the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean People’s Par­ty, Wil­fried Martens, a mis­sion of infor­ma­tion and, on the 30 Decem­ber, appoint­ed Her­man Van Rompuy as new Prime Min­is­ter. The gov­ern­men­tal coali­tion stayed the same and few changes occurred in the cab­i­net, with the excep­tion of the Prime Min­is­ter, the Min­is­ter of Jus­tice, the Min­is­ter of Civ­il Ser­vice and Pub­lic Com­pa­nies, and the Min­is­ter of Inte­ri­or Affairs.