Wait, what? Belgium's government has collapsed?

Isn’t that, like, kindof important?

Belgian Government Collapses After Botched Bank Bailout

I’ve read that article 3 times, and I still don’t understand it. What the hell happened?

I believe this is another case of confusion by a US publication in terms of what “government” means when talking about a “government falling” or “Collapsing” in a Parlaimentary system.

The Belgian apparatus of state is fine and still running. In this context “government” means the party that commands the confidence of Parliament (well, in this case it’s a coalition) and therefore forms the de facto executive branch of government. That party’s leader, the Prime Minister, may no longer hold that confidence due to a charge of corruption, and so the Prime Minister has offered his resignation; the King must therefore decide to either hold elections or ask someone else to form a govenrment if he feels they can hold the confidence of Parliament.

Fundamentally the same thing is happening in Canada, although the cast of characters and their motivations are different.

The Belgian GOVERNMENT, however, in the sense of the big organization that runs the functions of national governance and controls the army, is just fine and dandy.

Cool, thanks for that info.

“Fine” is a slight exaggeration for the big organisation that is the government. There is a fair chance of partitionin the medium term.

I love the shock and amazement every time something like this happens. It’s really funny. (No offense to the OP, of course. I was confused the first time I read about a government “collapsing”, too.)

Vox Imperatoris

Then what is meant by Italy’s “government,” which is changed more often than Monica Bellucci puts on clean underwear? Is that too just a parliamentary coalition, or does Italy actually manage for intermittent periods with no one in charge of the important stuff?

Just remember that Belgium was without an elected Government for something like six months not all that long ago.

Everything kept working just fine, people got paid, the trains were still running, power stayed on, water kept flowing etc. All that happened was that no new laws could get passed. Otherwise, it was “Business As Usual” pending a new elected Government- the actual framework that made up the country was still functioning, in other words.

So even if the Belgian Government has “collapsed” for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean there’s rioting in the streets or an imminent chocolate shortage or a rogue general planning to make military incursions into Germany as revenge for the last two Wars or anything like that.

It’d be pretty much the same in any Constitutional Monarchy, I think, FWIW.

Pretty much the latter, I think. Remember, even in Switzerland, the “President” is basically a figurehead to greet VIPs at the airport, so I think the Italians can manage just fine with no-one in charge of the Important Stuff for a bit.


I’m not sure about Italy in particular, but usually when a parliamentary government falls, either it remains in place in a caretaker capacity until another one can be appointed, or another one is immediately appointed. It’s very rare that a (stable) country has effectively no government for more than a few hours at a time; it’s the job of the Head of State to prevent this.

Italy almost always has coalition governments. More precisely, there are a left-wing and right-wing coalition whose existence is entrenched in the country’s political system, and one of them always forms the government.

My grandmere is from Belgium originally. I wonder if she knows about this.

Yeah. The “government” can mean any of three things:

  1. the apparatus of the state (which never stops operating, unless you’re really fucked);
  2. the administration (i.e. the Prime Minister and the Cabinet or the equivalent thereof), which is what is removed and replaced when “the government collapses”;
  3. the government side of the Parliament (as in “government and opposition” or “government benches”).

What RickJay said: it sounds more drastic than it is, although it is important. Sort of like “dissolution of Parliament,” though less routine.

To add to the fun: [ol][li]Belgium’s current government is essentially a caretaker government, trying to keep things functioning while the political parties, split on linguistic/ethnic lines, try to come up with a way out of the current crisis, ANDAccording to the Belgian constitution, the PM just can’t quit. King Albert has to accept his resignation. Dude has tried to resign once and the King told him Get back in there, you big coward. Who knows if he’ll accept it this time.[/ol]It’s amusing to watch from a safe distance but I do feel for my Belgian friends. [/li]
As has already been mentioned, Belgium has recently gone through a long spell of having no elected government at all. The regional governments (which, surprise surprise, run along linguistic lines) take care of most internal affairs already, so things like schools, hospitals, transportation, and such kept functioning and the ordinary person suffered no hardship.

Yeah, European style parliamentary politics, primer for Americans.
Imagine that all the tiny parties in the US actually got, like, votes and representation and shit. I know, just suspend your disbelief and play along. So the democrats have, say, 30% of the house, and Republicans have 20%, the Greens have 15%, the Rainbow-Unicorn-Freedom party has 15%, the John Birch Party has 10%, Aryan Nations has 10%, Natural Law Party has 10%, and the Reform Party and Libertarians each have 5%. (Does that add up?) Anyway, the Democrats probably get to appoint someone near the top of their list to head things, but neither of the biggest parties can push anything through themselves, so the Democrats and the Greens and the RUFP sort of agree on a number of points so they form a “coalition government”, and on certain things they’re able to drag in the NLP, and they manage to get most things that really need doing done. Suddenly the Democrats piss the Greens off or something-- the stock market tanks and the biggest reigning party gets the blame, or the guy at the head gets embroiled in a scandal that the Greens don’t want to be implicated in, or a war starts that many of the parties don’t support, or the king gets accused of pederasty. Suddenly nothing can get passed, so. . . eventually you dissolve congress and have new elections and see what happens this time.
Make sense?

Yeah, I sometimes wish we (the US) could do that sort of thing…we’d have collapsed the Bush Admin in 2006.

I really hope Monica Bellucci changes underwear more often than Italy changes governments. She would be bypassing grunge and landing smack dab in stank.

Or she could just go commando.

capybara, what you’re describing isn’t parliamentary politics per se, but parliamentary politics under proportional representation. Even if the US ever moved to parliamentary government, its two major entrenched political parties would probably continue ruling things, especially if representatives continue being elected with the current system.

RickJay’s point about the US media not doing a good job of explaining parliamentary government is well-taken. We’ve had a couple of similar threads relating to the recent political events in Canada, with US Dopers thinking, based on media reports, that Canada’s constitutional structure was in peril, and CanaDopers saying, “Nope.”


How Big a Deal is “Suspending Parliament”?

The Canadian PM Dissolves Parliament. Now What?