To what extent do N-VA and Vlaams Belang have the right to label Alexander De Croo’s (Open Vld) Vivaldi team as “illegitiem”, to call it “not our government”? With the dramatic riots in the parliament of the United States as a background, the De Croo I government, a team of purple, green and CD&V, showed itself very assertive towards the Flemish opposition for the first time. “Let us stay away from the rhetoric that the elections have been stolen, or that the majority is an illegal majority,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. “Now they have found it at Vivaldi: Trump is a bad loser, and so are the Flemish opposition”, Bart De Wever (N-VA) responds.
In the news: When it storms into the Washington DC Capitol, it trickles into the Chamber, in Brussels.
The details: A well-aimed offensive by Vivaldi pushes N-VA and Vlaams Belang in the defense.
- Last night, the outgoing US President Donald Trump backed down: he announced a smooth transfer of power to Joe Biden, the winner of the election, and finally condemned the violent protesters in bright words.
- Trump’s speech this time was heavily scripted and read from a teleprompter. The question is how long the president, who will remain in the White House for 12 days, stay on this new “moderate” course: sometimes it takes less than 24 hours before a new tweet storm starts. Although that is difficult these days: he has largely been banned from Twitter and Facebook.
- But the behavior of Trump, who fueled his constituencies to the focal point, taking the US parliament by surprise, got a solid tail in the Belgian public debate. In the Chamber, one party after the other took the floor to condemn the rioters, but also immediately draw political conclusions from them and apply lessons to their own country.
- It was noticeable that Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) went on the offensive fiercely. “Those who have been concerned in recent years, including many here in this hemisphere, you were not hysterical, not blinded by disgust. The questions that were asked were justified ”, De Croo congratulated his own coalition partners.
- “Let us stay away from a certain rhetoric here too. A rhetoric that elections would have been stolen, that a particular majority would be an “illegitimate majority”“, He spoke directly to Vlaams Belang and N-VA. They systematically point out that this government does not have a majority on the Flemish side, the two largest parties are on the side and that the prime minister is from the seventh party.
- Trump said, “They’re taking your job. They’re taking your land. They’re taking your election. “What happened is a direct result of that kind of rhetoric. Angela Merkel said, “Watch your language, because language is the precursor of action“,” De Croo continued.
- Immediately the prime minister announced, again, that there will be a fight against “fake news”, against what is spread of false information. This was already promised in the coalition agreement, and the previous Michel government, in which De Croo was Minister of Digitization, had also announced it. “We must defend ourselves against those who instill fear and those who divide it. We must be careful, democracy must not be muzzled, but we have to fight against disinformation. ”
- Both at their own Open Vld and at Groen it was said that it is now time to Article 150 of the Constitution. This states that political and especially press offenses must be assured: such a rigorous procedure that it is almost never applied. The majority want to adjust it so that prosecution can be done faster.
The essence: The coalition opens a new front in the direction of N-VA and Vlaams Belang. Is certain word usage still possible?
- In doing so, Groen party leader Kristof Calvo lashed out at N-VA: “It is Theo Francken (N-VA) who said:” Trump is sublime in his simplicity, he does in a smart way to politics“. It is the former President of the House (Siegfried Bracke, ed.) who said, “It is good that Trump is turning the system upside down.”
- Member of Parliament Els Van Hoof (CD&V) recalled that Francken tweeted after the US elections: “By responding to great emotions, such as revenge, my party can stand again next time. The rhetoric could become a copy-paste of what Trump is already doing. ” IrresponsibleShe stated.
- CD&V figurehead Annelies Verlinden, Minister of the Interior in the De Croo government, also looked firmly at the opposition: “One has to be very careful with that kind of wording. Using the word illegitimate is not appropriate. There is indeed a majority. (…) For me, that’s about it, that word use, I wouldn’t do that, then you enter a slippery slope ”, she corrected Villa Politica.
- “There are even MPs who, even today, while we see those images, spread that message, repeat, tweet, and do so with purpose. We have seen how dangerous it is to spread division, hatred and populism for years. The US is now getting to that point after a four-year journey. We are not that far, but that journey has already started ”, said Melissa Depraetere (Vooruit). She referred to Dries Van Langenhove, Member of Parliament for Vlaams Belang.
- “The sad scenes in the US are exactly what the establishment wants and what it has been aiming for for months. The establishment is doing everything it can to ensure that some right-wing activists use violence, to have an excuse to prosecute and imprison them all, ”it said on Twitter. None of his party corrected him.
- Vlaams Belang was the only party that did not intervene in the hemisphere, Peter De Roover (N-VA) did and strongly condemned the riots. For the cameras of Villa Politica Barbara Pas, the Vlaams Belang party leader, did come to defend her case.
- There was a different story from the statements of Van Langenhove, not the first time that he takes a much fiercer, heated position than his party. “We have no sympathy with Vlaams Belang for what happened. We condemn any form of violence ”, stated Pas. “But there are 74 million US voters who voted for Trump, that is not all people with horns on their heads storm the Capitol. ”
The big picture: What rhetoric then goes too far in opposition? It is clear to N-VA.
- It’s the first time that Vivaldi pushes back so fiercely, on language use and the manner of opposition from N-VA and Vlaams Belang. The argument that the term “illegitimate” should not be used is a new step.
- Linda De Win, among others, wrote Villa Politica the question to De Roover, the N-VA fraction leader, whether this does not “stir up mistrust in the government”. “Yes, of course I arouse suspicion against this government. I’m in opposition! ”He said spontaneously.
- N-VA chairman Bart De Wever reacts very sharply: “Now they have found it at Vivaldi: “Trump is a bad loser, so the Flemish opposition should be”. That is all so wafer-thin intellectually, so unjustifiable. Vivaldi will undoubtedly be proved right by the commentaries of De Standaard and De Morgen, but I fear that the rest of the country will easily see through that. ”
- “In my democracy, those government parties do not have a majority. In technical terms you could call that a majority, constitutionally it is. But if tomorrow you can give me a country in Europe, or even a democracy in the world where the two largest parties are not in government, and the seventh party provides the prime minister, well, call me back“, That’s how De Wever remains on his line.
- “What bothers me most is that the logic they use has to be adjusted each time according to the scenario that suits them best. Either you are one national group in the House, and you are “tous ensemble“But then you also have one deputy prime minister and one such cabinet. Then Groen can return her Deputy Prime Minister. The same with parity in government, or with special laws: apparently that still applies? Either you are always Belgian, but always, for better or worse, but not only when it is convenient. Just think of the doctors’ quota or the language legislation in Brussels. Or if the four nursing homes that would receive vaccines first happen to be Flemish, then “tous ensemble“Done quickly.”
In the margin: The campaign of “11 million Belgians, one shift” is still ongoing.
- If we state that the not the most successful campaign in the history of advertising a number of advertisers would probably agree: the federal government’s “motivation campaign” around COVID is still ongoing.
- This week, meter-sized banners were delivered in three major cities, representing “11 million Belgians, one team”: in Brussels, Antwerp and Charleroi. Is it a matter of giving the campaign an extra ‘boost’, devised by the Happiness agency and paid for by the federal government?
- There is remarkably little enthusiasm for the initiative in the city halls of Antwerp, but also Charleroi. “Who has come up with that now? be the dumbest way to argue the “Belgian cause”“, It sounds in the corridors in Hainaut.
- In Antwerp, De Wever responds in his well-known cynical way: “I am incredibly happy with that banner. After the unlikely success of the newspaper posters, this could not be missed. Because every house I pass has those newspaper posters hanging in the windows. ” To add another thought, “Maybe they could have run a campaign earlier to build trust in vaccines, who knows?”
Noted: Theo Francken (N-VA) will soon be candidate vice-chairman at N-VA.
- Sometimes body language says it all. When asked whether the N-VA figurehead Theo Francken is a candidate to become vice-chairman of N-VA, it was very difficult for him to conceal his ambitions. Previously, news about this leaked to De Standaard.
- Bee Villa Politica Francken did not want to pronounce himself yet, “after all, the procedure has not yet been opened”, but it is clear: he wants that job. “The casting for the party has to be all right,” he said.
- That is bad news for Lorin Parys (N-VA), the Flemish Member of Parliament who was able to put himself in the spotlight during the negotiations by communicating as vice-chairman. Parys is also from Flemish Brabant, the chance that he can stay on is therefore small.
- The good news is that there are two places, after all there are two vice-chairmen at N-VA. So something for everyone. And Cieltje Van Achter (N-VA), the other current vice-chairman, can no longer apply under the articles of association. She is now group leader in Brussels. Logically it is looking for a woman, besides Francken then. The name of Valerie Van Peel (N-VA) is mentioned.
- Such a ‘conflict’ within the N-VA can immediately be avoided, because then next to hardliner Francken There is room for a more ‘soft’ profile, which can then cover the other flank of N-VA.
- But the position of vice-chairman is also sought after for other reasons: chairman De Wever keeps on going, although sooner or later his empire will come to an end. And then the vice-presidency is immediately a springboard. Francken already had ambitions to make a bid for the presidency last year, but fit in when it turned out that De Wever himself was again a candidate.
Today on the agenda: The Consultation Committee.
- The message is clear, even today no one expects any relaxation from the government. The figures are doing well, all the declines that have started will continue, but nothing changes in terms of restrictions and prohibitions.
- The government is now trying sell the image of a “Gaul village surrounded by red zones”, because at the moment the figures in Belgium are much better than in the neighboring countries. Much has to do with the fact that the situation here became dramatic much faster, so that measures were taken more quickly.
- But policymakers now look much more at hospital admissions and bed occupancy than the infections themselves. And they still are not of the kind that a relaxation is apparently already possible. Certainly not because patients are now treated for longer on average, and there are also more people over 80 in the hospital. So people have become “better” in the treatment, but that weighs on the system.
- That means that a whole range of groups, including amateur athletes from the age of 13, but also contact professions, left out in the cold again. An exception would be made only for driving schools.
- Remarkable: in French-speaking Belgium, people are already more willing to think about the idea of relaxation. The MR insisted on this, and Yves Coppieters, professor at the ULB, also stated this morning “that relaxation can be considered for him”. On the Flemish side, nobody dares to say that, the public discussion is the monopoly of that the same circle of specialists.