DOI: 10.5553/RP/048647002000042001033

Res PublicaAccess_open


Vice-Premiers en kernkabinetten

Een evaluatie van deze innovaties

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Willy Claes, "Vice-Premiers en kernkabinetten", Res Publica, 1, (2000):33-43

    The function of Deputy Prime Minister is not specified in the Belgian Constitution, nevertheless it is imposed by force ofcustom. Since 1961, there have been in each government one or more Deputy Prime Ministers whether or not carrying the formal title. The Deputy Prime Minister was originally the number two in the government, behind the Prime Minister. Usually, he belongs to another party. Thanks to the competences attributed to him in the government, his position in his party and his natural authority and leadership, he tries, together with the prime minister, to manage the government in the right direction and to maintain the cohesion in the coalition. The Deputy Prime Minister is at the same time also in charge of a given ministry. The function of Deputy Prime Minister has become more important due to the increased influence of political parties within and upon the government. The Deputy Prime Minister acts now explicitly as spokesperson of his party within the government and defends the decisions of the government within his party. After the split of the national parties in a Flemish and a Walloon party and as consequence, the increase of parties in government, the number of Deputy Prime Ministers also increased. It became usual that each party in government had his own Deputy Prime Minister, even the party of the Prime Minister since the latter is considered to be politically neutral. Under the name of 'Cabinet for general affairs ', the 'kernkabinet' raised in1961 to handle all major problems and initiatives of the government. The 'kernkabinet' interpreted this rather vague description of its competences in a broad way. Its members were the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and some other senior ministers. Usually, an equilibrium on the basis of party- and language-affiliations was installed. In the second half of the 1970s, the role and the impact of the 'kernkabinet' increased gradually. The 'kernkabinet' had become a real decision-making institution, gathering several times a week. As a consequence, the role of the Council of Ministers on certain issues was degraded to merely ratify decisions taken by the 'kernkabinet'. Much critique was voiced on this evolution, especially upon the lack of transparency and efficiency. Although heavily criticized, the 'kernkabinet' has proved to be a very helpful instrument to take decisions on complex and delicate problems. In 1981, the 'kernkabinet' was formally abolished and in 1992, the Dehaene-government abolished all ministerial committees. Despite these abolitions, there was and still is nowadays the tendency to gather with the senior ministers to solve complex problems. De facto the kernkabinet holds strong.

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