Belgian MPs have seized on King Albert’s decision to abdicate to call for his son and heir, Prince Philippe, to become a purely ceremonial monarch.
The king’s announcement on Wednesday that he will step down on his country’s national holiday, 21 July, and hand the throne to his less popular son has fanned long-simmering debate in Belgium about reining in the few powers the king still wields.
“We now have momentum to adapt the monarchy to the 21st century,” Jan Jambon of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance told parliament yesterday during a meeting to discuss the abdication. “Let’s grab this chance with both hands.”
The Belgian monarchy is already largely ceremonial, but plays a key role in nudging politicians to make compromises in post-election talks to form a government. Under the constitution, the monarch must also give his royal assent to laws passed by parliament and can grant amnesty to criminals.
Mr Jambon, whose party wants a republic, called the king’s powers “feudal legacies” that should be scrapped.