De Wever (N-VA) puts verbal pressure on Open Vld, but is no closer to its government

A series of interviews on VTM and VRT later, N-VA chairman Bart De Wever put the liberals firmly in the corner: “It is criminally irresponsible to block a government now”. But at Open Vld, which should tack, they are not impressed. There they bet on another scenario: a restart of the current government for two years, with another casting. That plan does not seem to have any chance of success. Paul Magnette (PS) and De Wever are thinking of alternatives: the lines with the greens are opened.

In the news: Predictably, after the liberal media offensive: the N-VA hitting back.

The details: De Wever lashed out in unusually hard interviews.

  • A motivated, and even remarkably good-natured Bart De Wever, yesterday, after a visit to the king together with Paul Magnette, who extended the duo’s assignment by over a week, promptly to the studios of both VTM and VRT.
  • The message was given by one of the two preformateurs, the one who is on the Flemish side. Magnette was remarkably on the ground yesterday, although it was confirmed without problems with the PS that they supported his message 100 percent. It was no coincidence that only De Wever came out: the communication is intended as pressure on the Open Vld, the Flemish liberals. The MR? Not important to revive the hornet’s nest in French-speaking Belgium.
  • The Flemish liberals, on the other hand, are in their sights. Open Vld is for the time being the coalition partner of the N-VA in the Flemish government, and chairman Egbert Lachaert (Open Vld) has long kept the lines openly with De Wever: the socio-economic aspects of the Flemish liberals and N-VA are objective allies. in any form of government with Christian Democrats, let alone Socialists. And Lachaert was a big supporter of purple-yellow for months: was it not with that battle cry that he became chairman of the Flemish liberals?
  • But in the game of government formation, the roles have dramatically reversed in the past two weeks: after months of liberals taking control of the game, and certainly MR President Georges-Louis Bouchez making two moves and failing twice, suddenly the strongest duo has risen in the Wetstraat, which now puts the liberals in the shade.
  • PS and N-VA have clearly found each other, and that fundamentally changes the relationships in Belgian politics. Certainly because the outlines of a PS-N-VA coalition agreement have been drawn by both chairmen, in a negotiating note that should usher in the start of the formation, without the liberals having a finger in the pie.
  • The most important news yesterday from the preformers? That there now formally five parties are on board, based on that note. De Wever talked about “a bubble of 5” who have clicked together to form a government: N-VA, PS, sp.a, CD&V and cdH. Together they have 69 seats, with some appendages even 71. Not far from a majority.
  • “There is a house of cards built between PS and N-VA. You don’t throw a bowling ball at that“De Wever’s comment about how the Liberals sent their own note this week was their wish list. The way that went, annoyed all other negotiators: without any embarrassment, Bouchez made his own list of demands public, in Le Soir, including quotes to explain the wish list.
  • The truth is that French-speaking liberals are no longer desired at the table by the other five. The MR has made itself redundant for several reasons:
    • They stand in the way of an institutional agreement that further undresses the federal state: exactly the objective of N-VA and PS. With a tricolor mouth mask at the ready, Bouchez has been arguing for months exactly the opposite.
    • From a socio-economic point of view, the MR does not want to let the PS run the risk of a recovery policy: the liberals are on the brakes together on both fiscal and social levels. That undermines the fundamental deal of N-VA and PS: social measures in exchange for institutional reforms.
    • In addition, the MR has made special furs with the other party chairpersons. There is a deep conviction that Bouchez’s intentions are only to perpetuate the current situation, of six ministers and the prime minister and a European Commissioner.
    • As a result, he sabotages every possible deal: a feeling that several chairmen endorse. It is a matter of trust: too often Bouchez distorts falsehoods or communicates unilaterally. The irony, for example, is that his headstrong action, to add sentences to the latest “three kings” press release without consultation, led to the Palace itself taking action to legitimize De Wever and Magnette. Phrases that CD & V chairman Joachim Coens and Lachaert had not approved, but which were sent, and therefore had a significant impact.
  • Yesterday De Wever made explicit in primetime, which everyone has known implicitly for a long time: “I don’t think anyone is in favor of the MR anymore. Not because of personal vetoes, but it is a question of trust. I trust 100 percent that Georges-Louis Bouchez wants to fail thisHe adjusted VTM News.
  • Immediately, the image of the MR was also painted as flat “mailpackers”: “It may be nice to have seven ministers in one partybut if you can’t drive it in the worst crisis ever, just join the club that can make a government. ” The fact that Open Vld today is boxing well above its electoral weight in posts, was delicately unspoken.
  • De Wever did not leave a chip intact of Sophie Wilmès’ team, that other MR celebrity. “That’s a Potemkin government: the facade is there, but when you open the door, you see the great void. ”

The essence: The interviews are a form of powerlessness.

  • De Wever made no bones about it: “It is criminally irresponsible to block a government nowHe said about the attitude of the liberals. They are so fiercely threatened by the black beetle, one year after the elections.
  • The fact that the liberals publicly announced their wish list, which, moreover, did not appear to be calculated in any way, and in particular was not perceived as a “reasonable” bundle of requirements, continued bad blood with the preformateurs duo.
  • “That reads like an election program. A fairytale noteDe Wever was devastating. What was so difficult for the others in terms of content?
    • A complete departure from all previous plans that the liberals put down at Arizona, or agreed to.
    • An undetermined plan to link “no taxes” to massive additional expenditure, that one crater of 35 billion beats, every year.
    • A federalization powers or at least state reform in the long run.
    • A “freedom” to get over abortion to vote the way parties want.
    • No strengthening of social securityon the contrary, further degressivity of unemployment.
  • “You don’t make a government like that,” De Wever said. All presidents were already this week very indignant that the liberal duo Lachaert-Bouchez would go to the press, to put their bundle of requirements on the table again.
  • It is striking that Lachaert did this moderately, in De Tijd, and explicitly leaked nothing. Because as said, in Le Soir a completely different picture: there Bouchez had the wish list printed neatly next to his interview, black on white. Another signal for the others that the MR chairman simply does not want a deal.
  • It was strange that Lachaert discussed on Twitter with fellow party member Lode Vereeck (Open Vld), “Negotiate, Egbert, not leak any notes but negotiate well with reliable partners (who are not always in their own family). This country needs a government, ”he said. The Open VLD chairman replied “we are not leaking notes”, but his party member pointed out that the whole paper was read in Le Soir, thanks to Bouchez.
  • Lachaert then made a fierce accusation: “Leak organized by those who received the bill. Journalists even control him. Indeed no way of working of the recipients of the bill… ”, which in turn led to sour belching:“ It is time that Egbert face the truth about his “good friend” and his intentions. ”
  • The fact is that the whole attack of De Wever also screams powerlessness: there are few levers to put pressure on the Open Vld, except for the danger of being pushed to “the black beetle” in case of failure.
  • But the net effect of the N-VA swipe is mainly that it the bunker mentality at Open Vld has been strengthened. “Still a special way of working. Swear at us. Isn’t that the attitude of someone who wants to form a government? ”Says a prominent Flemish liberal.
  • One comparison is systematically returned: “Why was the spa allowed to say “no” to an Arizona coalition, clinging to the PS while we are not allowed to do so with the MR?, Says Open Vld.
  • But the question is whether this is true in parallel. Communicatively the sp.a already followed a different strategy: they always wanted to keep talking “substantively”, and never made a “band” with the PS publicly the object of the battle. Moreover, Conner Rousseau (sp.a) showed himself very sparingly with public commentary or interviews, but sent lieutenants like Hannelore Goeman (sp.a) to the studios to repeat that message of ‘substantive’ negotiation, which even the PS nervous. And meanwhile, he just practically refused to show up at crucial Arizona conversations.
  • That, coupled with the huge skepticism around a workable majority for an “Arizona”, even with the negotiators involved, the pressure on sp.a and now Open Vld is not comparable. With the PS and N-VA, other heavier players are in the game this time. However, they are also unlikely to force a breakthrough by communicating fiercely now that the matter is so stuck.

The big picture: What underlying reasons are there for Open Vld to resist so vehemently?

  • Are the two negotiators, Magnette and De Wever, too subtle in their approach? The fact is that the MR soon got into the moth that threatened thunder: Bouchez made every effort at the start of the duo to commit to the Open Vld: it seemed his only lifebuoy to stay on board.
  • He succeeded wonderfully in this: the Flemish liberals feel that they maintain long-term ties to MR. Lachaert also sought and found the support of Patrick Dewael (Open Vld) and Alexander De Croo (Open Vld), the two most important tenors next to the chairman.
  • But what exactly the Flemish liberals buy for that alliance is unclear. It is certain that the party is Felt “not respected”, and not as a “fifth wheel on the car”, or as a “junior partner” in a government with PS and N-VA wanted to join in recent days. Open Vld is “on the rocker” and wanted to box above her weight of 12 seats. That is why they want to bring in some substantive things. But there is more to it.
  • For example, several leaders within the party heard that “one minister post” would be a very meager price to go into government now. After all: the new cabinet would become a “small team” with only twelve ministers.
  • That proposal has been on the table since March, when there was even “only” ten posts in an emergency cabinet. They now also want such a ‘slender team’. But even with twelve posts, that looks thin for Open Vld. A quick calculation shows that N-VA would have three ministers, and CD&V, Open Vld and sp.a each, on the Flemish side. The French speakers also divide six posts: four for PS and two for the CDH. “Should we do it for one post then?That is the question. “Does the N-VA want to” marginalize “us so much, by giving us so little visibility?”
  • Of course there are also secretaries of state to be added, but compared to the opulence that Open Vld has known for more than 600 days since the fall of Michel I, it remains thin. And it is also important that the party with Dewael already supplies the President of the Chamber, which will also be included in the distribution of the posts: even fewer prospects So.
  • An offer from the negotiators, to let Dewael sit down and let De Croo choose his preferred position, Finance as is generally assumed, was experienced as too skinny by Open Vld “to betray the MR”.
  • It is important to note that in exchange for the recent “close marriage” with MR, Open Vld is apparently one for them interesting exchange: Bouchez gives up the current government Wilmès II.
  • After all, the French-speaking liberals now say that they themselves “Don’t hold on to that government”, Bouchez did that out loud at Le Soir on Thursday. It cannot be really surprising: a vote of confidence will inevitably follow in September, but the government will not survive. Those knives have been known for a long time.
  • But in liberal circles, the scenario of before is increasingly tenacious an ’emergency cabinet’ is formed for one to two years, which only focuses on corona. A new team would then take office, or be shuffled with names within the current minority cabinet, replacing “exhausted and unworkable ministers”. And apparently: even a change in the Sixteen is not a taboo.
  • What also plays: an important wing within Open Vld does not want to know anything about N-VA, and had hoped for a purple-green construction. They are emotionally not going to support any current plan, and are poking their chairman to keep the leg stiff. For example, former chairman Gwendolyn Rutten (Open Vld) has also stirred internally in recent days, of course not to encourage a PS-N-VA deal.
  • Anyway: after all the communication from last week, a breakthrough seems difficult to imagine. Open Vld keeps repeating that they “never unload the MR again”. So there is a very good chance that De Wever and Magnette will not have Flemish liberals on board even after next week. But eight days is a lot in politics.

And now? What is left of options?

  • The idea of ​​the liberals, to continue with the same minority team, but perhaps with different faces, is already becoming radically rejected by the other.
    • It is with the socialists resentment towards the liberals meanwhile is sky high: they no longer support what comes from the current government. Prime Minister Wilmès has to pack, forever.
    • The N-VA threatens to be left very bitter if their leader’s assignment fails. The atmosphere in the Flemish government will then be ruinedAnd federally, people are more than ever prepared to go to elections.
    • Even the Christian Democrats are wide-eyed at how special concrete attempt to achieve a stable construction for the country, with the two big ones, is in danger of going down. Whether they can still be tempted for new adventures in a minority cabinet remains to be seen.
  • Another possibility, which is suggested from the PS, but also circulates within N-VA: bring the greens into play. If the liberal family continues to refuse, there is not much left to do but to talk to Ecolo and Groen. A pretty unthinkable move, but not illogical, if few other options remain.
  • This immediately blocks the French-speaking ecologists: they had always vowed not to work with N-VA. And Jean-Marc Nollet, the chairman of the Ecolo, was not exactly waiting for a call from the current duo, the past few days: he was on holiday and even had hardly any reception to be called.
  • “That they will try with the greens”, was how challenging this week at Open Vld. There they do not fear a course of opposition, Lachaert continues to repeat. Certainly not if N-VA is then forced into a government with socialists and greens. Only that threatens to become sour for De Croo and Dewael: both will then have lost their jobs and can start opposition under the leadership of Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld).
  • The time has not yet come: the greens have not been particularly flexible in their negotiating strategy in the past year. The chance that they suddenly change course is not great. Thus looms the scenario of elections in the autumn yet very manifest on. “It is this, or nothing more,” is what several of the five chairmen who are in the “bubble of five” hear. High game, in the Wetstraat.


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