What has been coming for days is happening: Georges-Louis Bouchez (MR) cannot believe that Paul Magnette (PS) and Conner Rousseau (sp.a) have left on a self-declared mission to try to make a government. He is now wildly surrounding himself, including talking about a “coup of the socialists”, with “no authority whatsoever”. He immediately proposes a coalition himself: PS and N-VA, together with MR, Open Vld and CD&V. Bouchez already had few friends in the Wetstraat, so he isolates himself further.
In the news: Again quarreling about the second stayers.
- Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) had actually announced it, and everyone expected it: today would the curve about the second stayers. The ban on coming to the coast or the Ardennes would be lifted. That would then be a correction: after the previous Security Council, the communication was that until June 8 nothing would change. But the pressure became great.
- It already was felt in the super core last weekend, where the sp.a raised the matter, but N-VA and CD&V also made it clear that this was no longer tenable. Wilmès did not answer it last Saturday, but the message, also from his own coalition partner, was clear. At least, that’s what everyone thought. CD&V chairman Joachim Coens didn’t even have the number on Twitter Back to the shore posted?
- The coastal mayors had also indicated in the previous week that the ban should be lifted. That was also a tight bend: At the onset of the crisis, they were the first to deter everyone, to investigate in supermarkets and to announce actions with heat cameras. But the more and more days began to dawn on the fact that the local middle class received enormous blows, due to the lack of second residents.
- Moreover, there is legal pressure: Several residents united in a lawsuit, subpoenaing the state. The fact that the decision that the second home must keep at home is legal quicksand did not make things easier for the government: the definition of ‘staying at home’ has not narrowed down to a ‘domicile’. So how do you explain the prohibition from a purely legal point of view?
- The N-VA then conducted the forcing this week, with both Prime Minister Jan Jambon (N-VA) and Tourism Minister Zuhal Demir (N-VA) wishing to take the file on himself, and pressuring the federal government . However the N-VA was also in the National Security Council through Jambon, who did not file the file at her last session and refused to relax.
- But in government circles, with much frustration, it can now be heard that CD&V minister Pieter De Crem is still lying in the background. In recent weeks, the Minister of the Interior has been the first to have inspections carried out everywhere, certainly with regard to the coast. “He is already bothering him, against his own chairman. That is unworkable in this way, ”can be heard within the federal government.
- One person will be happy: the West-Flemish governor Carl Decaluwé (CD&V), who again made a plea on Radio 1 to keep people away from their property. “It is potentially about 200,000 people who can come to the coast. How are we going to maintain social distancing? ”He said, adding the“ hope ”that the government “Certainly not immediately” would lift the ban.
Very striking this morning: MR chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez will be conducting fire bomb interviews in Le Soir and De Morgen.
The details: The MR and Open Vld will visit the duo Paul Magnette and Conner Rousseau today. Immediately the reason for Bouchez to completely attempt PS and sp.a. in all serenity to initiate conversations, to question them.
- Bouchez chooses the two newspapers with “red roots” to give his explanation, as if he would like it to arrive well and hard at PS and sp.a. The conversations are therefore sharp, to the point of being villainous. Central message: who do those two socialist presidents think they are?
- The timing is very striking: the appointment had already been scheduled for one week with Magnette and Rousseau on the agenda. And since last weekend Rousseau and Magnette also communicated about the initiative they had taken: so it is not the case that Bouchez is now suddenly informed. “You do make an appointment, but just before you say that the duo is not legitimate. It is not very consistent, that attitude of Bouchez ”, is the dry comment of a fellow party chairman in the Wetstraat.
- Bouchez’s signal rings completely against the relatively serene political climate, which had arisen from the corona crisis. Because although a lot of frustration accumulated during the crisis about the approach to the medical tsunami, many in the Rue de la Loi held back: it was not an issue to let the political climate continue to be spoiled.
- But Bouchez doesn’t like that. “Rousseau and Magnette had there probably need to get a breath of fresh airnow that the lockdown has eased ”, he concludes the series of agreements that the socialist duo organizes with the other party leaders.
- “They made some contacts, just like me and other chairmen. Only I will not trumpet all that in the newspapers, ”says Bouchez in De Morgen. At the same time, he does just that in Le Soir, boasting about who he is talking to: “I myself have also made contacts with N-VA, Open Vld, CD&V,…“
- Striking too, Bouchez mainly lashes out at Rousseau, as if he has trouble with the fact that he is suddenly in the spotlight: “I wait for his first ideas. It’s a bit easy to say I’m new here and I want the games to stop. Look, I am also new and I also want the games to stop. ”
- Bouchez also goes back to the Palace, which he drags along in the discussion. “None of the party chairmen now have the authority to take the lead. In such a case, only someone designated by the king can have sufficient legitimacy, ”he says. And so he has plans for that Palace. He wants government negotiations, linked to a recovery plan. But if that is not concrete by the end of June, then “a formator must be appointed by the king in consultation with the chairmen“.
- “It is respect for the constitutional customs and institutions of the state,” he says. He immediately rejects the idea that the king cannot intervene, because there is still the existing government Wilmès II. “But it has a very limited mandate. Sophie Wilmès herself has said that her government has full powers in the fight against corona, but otherwise remains in current business. ” It must be the first time that the MR, which itself supplies the prime minister, stresses that the government should therefore do very little.
- Bouchez subtly adds one more thing: “We have to be honest, today there is no level of trust between the government partners, or between the party leaders, to justify making a government. That goes for Paul, for Bart, or for me“, He refers to a” lack of confidence “in the PS chairman, but also in N-VA chairman Bart De Wever.
The essence: Bouchez does not benefit from a short-term agreement.
- The MR must be the party without a doubt has the most to lose in the formation of a fully-fledged government: with the premiership and six federal ministerial posts they are enormously overpaid. Bouchez himself always boasts of this: he won the previous round of negotiations in a cynical way. Who would he allow to take that just like that?
- Bouchez thus defends himself in the discussion about the formation of a new, fully-fledged government, succeeding Wilmès II, as a devil in a holy water font. His position is thereby spectacularly changed a few times, last week:
- First, there was Bouchez’s outrage that the other parties did not want to renew proxies in June: the message was “talk only in September about a new government “.
- Then he took his turn and was able to get there still talks “from June”.
- Meanwhile, the MR launched from the party itself has a number of “recovery plans”, including for the catering industry.
- But now, according to Bouchez, a whole recovery plan needs to be negotiated between the presidents, like integral part of a new coalition agreement.
- Bouchez now also does what is extremely sensitive to all other parties: immediately propose a coalition. For him this should consist of PS, N-VA, MR, Open Vld and CD&V. For others, there is “possibly room, if they want to join”.
- The corresponding reasoning that Bouchez makes? The largest parties must join. But that does not immediately make sense, because both Open Vld and CD&V are smaller than Ecolo, for example. And what about Vlaams Belang, the second largest Flemish party? Rather, it is a proposal with which he provokes again: the Rousseau sp.a falls off, and the PS is forced to deploy the old Swedish government. Bouchez knows very well that it is unacceptable for both: they have just proclaimed “out together, at home together”.
- In the short term, there is therefore only one net result for Bouchez from these interviews: the attempt by the socialists, who nevertheless enjoys the support of CD&V, among others, and has also not had a veto of N-VA, must be taken down.
The big picture: The MR chairman threatens to further isolate himself.
- It had long been the conclusion in the Wetstraat: with Bouchez actually cannot work. “Oh yeah, another day, another crazy move“, Says a party chairman dry. “Can you ever drive with that guy at all?” Is the question.
- For Bouchez, this does not necessarily lead to panic: he, like the PS, is necessary in every government combination, and he plays it out well every time. But so he takes a position in which systematically punches above its weight: with 14 seats, he does not immediately have a heavy political party behind him. And certainly when it comes to the quality of the political staff, the MR does not excel.
- What is much worse: too relations with the Flemish liberals and with CD&V, its government partners, are tense. Everyone can see that Bouchez does not exactly support his prime minister, he wants to take the lead in a number of files. He now also spontaneously offers the Sixteen, “it is not the property of the MR,” he says, without realizing that the broad feeling in just about every party, including those in his government, is that the French-speaking liberals are not exactly lawfully lead the country today.
- Moreover, with Open Vld there is no positive perspective. With Gwendolyn Rutten (Open Vld), the collaboration was never compromised. But the past few days, the MR had steered towards Liberal Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo: not conducive to what is to come. And just as well, people wonder about candidate chairman Egbert Lachaert (Open Vld) how a country can be sailed with that MR from Bouchez.
- For example, Bouchez confirms what has been buzzing with fellow presidents for a long time: to ever make a decent deal around the federal government, people will mainly have to work around the MR. “The moment you involve that man in confidential conversations, it is immediately on the street,” a party chairman summarizes.
Noted in the Wetstraat: Tom Van Grieken (Vlaams Belang) becomes a father. A wonderful moment, one would think. Perfect also for sharing with the world, if you want to make yourself “more human”, “softer”. But none of that for the party chairman. He shares a photo of himself, his wife and the baby’s echo on Instagram and Twitter, with the caption: “We make newcomers ourselves“.
Meanwhile in the negotiations: The socialists don’t show much in their cards.
- In any case, Rousseau and Magnette’s assignment continues: they simply receive the MR chairman. A disciplined interview of Magnette in L’Echo shows, according to insiders, that the PS chairman “on message“Is: no unnecessary skirmishes, and especially no doors that close.
- The fact that there is no text makes it easier for the time being: that way the others don’t get the feeling that “the socialists hold the pen”, but it is rather explore and see if a coalition can crystallize.
- Furthermore, the question is how discreet the matter can remain: do the party leaders go soon again in front of the cameras, or is everyone disciplined, even with Bouchez’s provocations? The socialists, but also the N-VA, seem to remain on that line.
Importantly, in the pipeline: The government is breeding a bazooka for SMEs.
- In government circles it is confirmed: work is being done on a plan specifically to throw an extra lifeline to SMEs. The federal government has already come up with an initial “bazooka”, an agreement with the banking sector to provide around 50 billion in bridging loans, with a state guarantee.
- However, those credits do not go smoothly. The goal of the bazooka is especially not achieved among the smaller companies, and there are many in an SME country such as Belgium. The banks are therefore also concerned: loans between 300,000 euros and 700,000 euros might be much easier to repay or not to be repaid in time, than the larger loans. Or, the twelve months that now count as a term will not suffice: after those 12 months there is still not enough recovery.
- A bazooka so more tailored to those small businesses is exactly what Febelfin, the banking sector, is asking. KBC’s big boss, Johan Thijs, already argued for this last week when he presented his figures. “Companies that need more time to repay their loan should be offered a more tailored solution.”
- Meanwhile, plans have been made in all surrounding countries, specifically for SMEs: The Netherlands, Germany and France have taken measures for them. But that has not really happened in Belgium yet, which is why an initiative is now being developed. Moreover, there is federal policy, but the Flemish government also offers options, such as a win-win loan.
Striking research: The government parties could politically don’t really take advantage of the crisis, the N-VA certainly not.
- Who will get “profit” from this crisis? An interesting study by Professor Stefaan Walgraeve (UAntwerp), together with De Standaard and VRT, asked that question, based on a Kantar TNS survey among 1,857 Flemish people.
- Striking: although certainly in the early days confidence in policymakers was okay, at 45 percent on April 9, it systematically dropped to just 26 percent on April 28. Among other things, the shaky communication around the visit to the residential care centers and the confused press conference with the slides is much in between.
- At the level of the parties it is indicated that especially N-VA has played “in the spotlight”: 20 percent of the Flemish think that. Second is Open Vld with 14 percent, and CD&V with 9 percent: not illogical, because those are the policy parties.
- But that is not good news for Bart De Wever and co. The N-VA made a “negative impression” on no less than 33 percent of the Flemish, with which the party is slightly “underwater”: only 30 percent have a positive impression of them in the crisis. It is completely different for PVDA, which made a positive impression on 73 percent of the people, and only a negative impression on 4 percent. But also striking: sp.a is also positive, with 72 percent positive, and only 2 percent negative.
- Previously lousy: once again the government parties Open Vld (33 percent positive, versus 26 percent negative) and CD&V (43 percent positive and 26 percent negative).
- Also with the ministers that picture: CD & V figureheads such as Wouter Beke (22 percent) and Pieter De Crem (24 percent) do not score well to the question “who made a good to very good impression?”. Ben Wetys (N-VA, 33 percent) and Jan Jambon (N-VA, 29 percent) are higher, but the latter was hit: he was still at 35 percent on April 9, so on April 28 he was down to 29 percent failed.
- The Prime Minister, Sophie Wilmès (MR), seems to have collapsed completely. and to a lesser extent Maggie De Block (Open Vld), when asked whether they made a “good to very good impression”. Wilmès was at 53 percent on April 9. That dropped to 30 percent. The Block sounded at 37 percent, which dropped to 27 percent.