Belgium s new right-wing coalition government was sworn in Saturday after four months of horsetrading with francophone liberal leader Charles Michel becoming the country s youngest prime minister since 1840.
For the first time a coalition of four parties -- three Dutch-speaking, including the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), and one French-speaking -- will rule the linguistically divided country together.
Michel, 38, struck a deal Tuesday to push through major economic and social reforms, including pushing back the retirement age from 65 to 67 by 2030.
The coalition cuts the outgoing Socialists from power for the first time in a quarter of a century. Socialist premier Elio Di Rupo s resignation was officially accepted earlier in the day.
I swear loyalty to the King, to obey the constitution and the laws of the Belgian people, the 18 members of the cabinet swore one after the other in front of King Phillippe, with Michel taking the oath of office in French, Dutch and the country s third official language, German.
The Flemish nationalist N-VA party was the big winner in the mostly Dutch-speaking Flanders region in the May 25 elections with 33 percent of the vote. Even though their leader Bart De Wever has opted to stay out of government, they took most of the plum cabinet posts.
De Wever said he was happy the new coalition had pushed out the socialists in an interview Saturday with the Brussels economic daily, L Echo.
His right-hand man, Jan Jambon, got the interior ministry, while his party also took the defence, finance, public service and immigration portfolios.
With only four women in the 18-member cabinet, and no visible ethnic minorities, the Belgium press said the new government was far from reflecting the country s diversity.
In addition to the premier post, Michel s francophone Reform Movement (MR) got some of the more difficult ministries including pensions, energy and the environment with the country facing possible power cuts this winter, and airline overflights of the densely populated nation of 11 million causing controversy.
The Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) took the justice, economy and employment posts, while the popular Maggie De Block was put in charge of health, with her Flemish liberal party also taking the public enterprise ministry.
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