Following the announcement from the Palace, the politicians were quick to launch into the debate. The Flemish nationalists (N-VA) immediately told parliament that King Albert’s abdication offers the opportunity “to adapt the monarchy to the 21st century”. The N-VA wants a reduction of the king’s powers and of royal funds. Some are even suggesting that it is time get rid of the monarchy altogether, although this is a long way off.
The N-VA supports the system of a republic but says it will not take the initiative to abolish the monarchy.
Most other parties (liberals, socialists, greens) agree that the king’s power should be reduced, and that his functions should only be ceremonial. The Christian democrats are taking a more conservative stand on the matter. They are open for a debate, but point to the fact that the king’s functions are already clear-cut.
It seems that there is majority to reduce the king’s power, but the parties agree that this debate must be delayed until after a new government has been installed. Elections are coming up next May.
For the moment, the king has a mainly ceremonial function, but it’s a bit more than that. The king has to intervene when a new government has to be formed, by appointing a formateur or someone who has to take the initiative in the case of a deadlock. In times of long political crises, this can become an important factor.
The king also has to sign new laws, he is part of the country’s executive powers together with the government, he is the commander-in-chief of the army, can appoint or dismiss ministers and grant a royal pardon to criminals or inmates.