The Flemish nationalist leader is fueling distrust of anti-ovid measures. A dangerous political game, difficult to take on.
The Flemish nationalist leader is fueling mistrust of anti-ovid measures. A dangerous political game, difficult to take on.
From our correspondent MAX HELLEFF (Brussels) – Since August and the failure of the rapprochement between the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the French-speaking PS, Bart De Wever had virtually disappeared from the radar screens. In recent days, however, the mayor of Antwerp has made the buzz by taking the opposite course of anti-ovid measures.
Last weekend, when the closure of non-essential shops was announced for Monday, Bart De Wever called on his fellow citizens to shop intensively to support Antwerp shops: “For many, this weekend will be the last chance to go to stores. But you will have to strictly follow the rules for this Sunday shopping. Don’t bring more people than allowed. Keep your distance and wear the mask, ”he said on Twitter. As a result, on Sunday the streets of Antwerp were crowded with people at the risk of spreading the virus widely.
“Incomprehensible”, reacted the governor of the province of Antwerp Cathy Berx, seeing onlookers storming the city center of the metropolis, their purchases in hand. Bart De Wever has since justified himself by arguing that no other mayor has banned shopping in his commune. And, in fact, other Flemish and French-speaking city centers were invaded last weekend by shopping enthusiasts … “A missed opportunity”, railed the Minister of the Interior, the Flemish Christian Democrat Annelies Verlinden.
All this would only be anecdote if it weren’t for the temptation of the Flemish nationalist leader to oppose the De Croo government on the grounds of the covid. Last April, Bart De Wever had already posed sitting on a public bench when the sanitary measures expressly prohibited it. At the time, the N-VA was out of the game. The majority of parties had concluded a peace of the brave around ex-Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (just out of a covid infection) to get through the health crisis.
Today the situation is not much different. By forming the Vivaldi coalition, the seven parties that chose to go to the federal government also condemned the N-VA (the country’s largest party) to remain in opposition for four more years. An essentially nationalist opposition therefore, since the other strong party to be animated is the Vlaams Belang (far right) of Tom Van Grieken.
Problem: This opposition has nothing to chew on at the moment. The De Croo government has fully focused on the health situation since taking office a month ago. New measures, reconfigurations, management of saturated hospitals… he ran out of time to launch projects and reforms. Belgium still does not have a recovery plan. The major economic, environmental and societal axes which form the basis of political debates are fatally absent.
Last March, a columnist for the French-speaking public channel RTBF estimated that “Bart De Wever’s attitude unfortunately proves it, we are not immune to incivism and baseness on a subject as serious as coronavirus (…) The best ally of the coronavirus is incivism ”.
Nearly 12,000 deaths later, Bart De Wever’s temptation to give into anti-covid populism, like a Flemish Donald Trump, still seems to be there. But this ground is slippery. Belgium has just slipped back into “significant excess mortality”. One in four nursing homes is infected with the virus. No doubt hence for this admirer of ancient Rome a reluctance to pass the sanitary rubicon too quickly.