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Sophie Wilmès appointed prime minister of Belgium by King Philippe

Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès with King Philippe
09:38 28/10/2019

Sophie Wilmès is Belgium’s first female head of government following her appointment as prime minister by King Philippe at the royal palace on Sunday. She replaces Charles Michel who has stepped down to prepare for his new job as president of the European Council on 1 December.

Like Michel, Wilmès is a member of the Francophone liberal party Mouvement Reformateur (MR). The former budget minister was selected by the current caretaker government.

A minority government has been in place since the Flemish nationalist party N-VA quit after a migration row in December 2018. It holds 38 out of 150 seats in the house of representatives.

The government was further weakened by the country’s federal elections on 26 May. Negotiations are ongoing between the country’s majority parties across the linguistic divide, the Francophone socialists (PS) and the N-VA, to form a new coalition.

“It’s a situation that cannot endure,” Wilmès told RTBF on Monday morning. “The interest of Belgium is to quickly have a full government that has the capacity to take the necessary measures.”

As the country’s first female head of government, Wilmès said: “It creates a precedent and if that creates a positive precedent for women and young girls in our kingdom, or further afield, all the better.”

Relatively unknown among the general public, 44-year old Wilmès is married to an Australian and has four children. Born in Brussels, she studied communication and financial management in the capital. The Rhode-Saint-Genèse/Sint-Genesius-Rode resident started her political career as alderman of the facility commune from 2007, before becoming a provincial councillor in 2014. She was appointed budget minister of the federal government in 2015.

Photo: Belgian prime minister Sophie Wilmès and King Philippe, Belga/Nicolas Maeterlinck

Written by Sarah Crew


Frank Lee

Only 59 years after Sri-Lanka, 53 years after India, 50 years after Israel, 44 years after the Central African Republic, 40 years after the UK and Portugal, 38 years after Norway, 31 years after Pakistan, 29 years after Lithuania, 28 years after Bangladesh and France, 27 years after Poland, 26 years after Turkey, Canada, Burundi, Rwanda, 24 years after Haiti, 22 years after New Zealand and Guyana, 18 years after Senegal, 16 years after Finland and Peru, 15 years after Mozambique, 14 years after Ukraine and Germany, 13 years after Jamaica and South Korea, 10 years after Iceland and Croatia, 9 years after Australia and Slovakia, 8 years after Mali, Thailand, and Denmark, 5 years after Latvia, 4 years after Namibia, 2 years after Serbia, 1 year after Romania and a few months after Austria is our "democratic" government under the leadership of a woman. Well, considering Belgium was one of the last countries in Europe to grant the right to vote to women (in 1948, which means my mother couldn't vote when she was young), it makes sense. I celebrate Ms Wilmès's achievement, but I also claim: "ABOUT TIME!"

Oct 28, 2019 17:50