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Belgium remains orphan of a “real” government

The federal government “of right” which should have left the polls on May 26, 2019 is still pending.

Max HELLEFF

The federal government “of right” which should have left the polls on May 26, 2019 is still pending.

From our correspondent, Max Hellef (Brussels) – This Tuesday, May 26, it was just one year ago that the Belgians went to the polls for legislative elections which, overall, marked the decline of the big traditional parties and consecrated the rise in power of extremes.

Since then, no coalition that could lead to the formation of a new federal government has been able to be sealed. Attempts by the various parties have been unsuccessful. On the contrary, the health crisis has temporarily strengthened the team in current affairs of Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès, although it only relies on 38 of the 150 deputies in the House. The coronavirus has led the majority of non-governmental parties to unite around it, in the name of the best interests of the country.

Socialists on the move

In recent days, however, the lines have moved. The lull in the pandemic and the relative success of the successive phases of deconfinement gave the parties the opportunity to resume discussions with a view to forming a government. Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist party N-VA, has made several foot calls in recent weeks. Sure Radio 1, he considered his exclusion “unthinkable”.

However, it is the Flemish and especially French-speaking socialists who are at the helm. Conner Rousseau and Paul Magnette, their respective presidents, are busy writing a report on the recent round of discussions they had with their counterparts from other parties. A second round should follow. The text thus drafted could serve as a working basis for the next informant appointed by the king. We should find there a series of points on which it would be possible to find an agreement and finally move towards a government “of right”.

The essential N-VA

We take the same and start again? Not quite. The health crisis has brought Belgium to the brink of an economic and financial crisis, the contours of which are still unclear. Its cost is estimated at 13 billion euros for now. More than a million workers have swelled the ranks of temporary unemployment, an untold number of bankruptcies threatening to leave some of them on the shelf.

It is therefore a real bailout of the Belgium ship that the new government team will have to tackle. The public deficit has doubled in two months. The country’s debt is soaring. Tax revenue is lower and cannot be increased beyond measure, at the risk of penalizing consumption by individuals and restarting businesses.

This puzzle could well force the socialists of Paul Magnette to admit that there will be no salvation without the participation of the N-VA of Bart De Wever in the next government. It is still the first political party in the north of the country, even if a recent poll now ranks it second behind the Vlaams Belang (far right). On the public channel RTBF, the Flemish Christian Democrat Koen Geens insisted: “The PS must make a religion on a possible coalition with the N-VA. After the corona crisis, we can no longer hide behind the content of the programs. ”

Tensions between liberals and ecologists

It remains to be seen whether the socio-economic emergency will be enough to convince the parties that they must bury the hatchet, as the health crisis has managed to do for the time being. With the exception of a few hiccups, the Wilmès government was able to count on the confidence and special powers attributed to it to deal with covid-19. The renewal of these for three months will be discussed in June.

Until then, we will count the points. On the positive side, we note the arrival of a new president among the Flemish Liberals of the Open-VLD in the person of Egbert Lachaert, a man labeled on the right who says he refuses to discuss with Vlaams Belang. On the negative side, relations between environmentalists and French-speaking liberals have become particularly strained in recent days. The “blues” torpedoed the candidacy of Zakia Khattabi, the former co-president of Ecolo, to the Constitutional Court. Since then, the names of birds between the two parties have been flying… Note: over the past ten years, Belgium has spent 1,206 days in current affairs. Without a “real” government then … More than three years that have not had the skin of the kingdom …


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