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