Vivaldi in dirty papers, after Pieter De Crem’s torpedo: doubts whether CD&V will ever participate ‘stably’ at all

Today Vivaldi had to revive: in the Chamber the seven parties click together for the first time, around the extension of Wilmès II. And resume the physical discussions among the chairmen who are out from under their corona quarantine. But immediately those conversations start under a heavy heart: at CD&V things are rumbling violently, after a public swipe of figurehead Pieter De Crem (CD&V). The premiership, an ambition that could appease the CD&V supporters, also seems far away. “The CD&V chairman is already very emphatically about which beautiful portfolios he can get.”

In the news: Today the negotiators meet again.

The details: Every president and sherpa tested negative.

  • Vivaldi takes a severe blow today. Because the crucial partner to make it “Vivaldi”, and not just purple-green, the Flemish Christian Democrats of CD&V, don’t settle down.
  • In a incendiary interview with De Standaard, figurehead and minister Pieter De Crem (CD&V) leaves no stone unturned of that future coalition.
  • Now De Crem is known for occasionally lighting a fire (when it could be purple-yellow, he also started to counteract LN24 at the time), but his words do come in this time. An anthology:
    • About the position of CD&V: “We are mathematically redundant. My experience shows that such a thing means that we will not play a role. We will never be able to veto a file. Imagine that the government is leaving and a bill is passed on the way that would extend the term for abortion. That’s a horror scenario. We do not have any guarantees. Abortion threatens to become an Arco-bis. ”
    • And still: “On our frail shoulders of barely twelve seats would rest the task of covering the entire pallet that ignore green, red and blue. If we join Vivaldi, we will have to oppose the majority. ”
    • About the content and whether there are guarantees about state reform and abortion: “Niente, nada, nothing. I do not have the impression that the text, which is full of generalities, contains many of our points. It most closely resembles the Groen en Ecolo program. ”
    • About the future government: “I have never seen so many parties argue so much when forming a government. The previous purple-green government had an open debate culture, with this one it seems to be an open war culture. If anything comes out, it will have to be a very detailed agreement. Vivaldi will not be able to negotiate interim agreements. ”
    • About Open Vld: “Egbert Lachaert has his own program of the liberal presidential elections already ritually burned. (…) The economic agenda of Open Vld seems to have disappeared, all that remains is some service club-like pep talk. When the liberals are in government, taxes always increase. And every tax increase is a Flemish tax increase. Then I say: this is really not possible. ”
    • About the opposition: “I don’t understand the chronic moaning that CD&V does not belong in the opposition. If we couldn’t handle an opposition role, we certainly wouldn’t be able to handle a role in Vivaldi. Building your own profile will not work by copying the purple-green agenda. ”

The effects: The interview sharply underlines the doubts that prevail within Vivaldi about CD&V.

  • Stupid, stupid, stupid“, You can hear with a sigh within the group of negotiators. “Again, they put the spotlights on themselves all day long.”
  • “It is this way not workable with the Christian Democrats“, Another negotiator is sharper. The interview comes precisely at a time when the seven chairmen, who have all tested negative, will resume the talks today.
  • For a long time now, the feeling has prevailed among a number of other chairmen at the table “that Joachim Coens (CD&V) is cooperating constructively, but that this does not mean that the entire CD&V is on board”. In other words, one wonders whether the Christian Democrats can become a stable factor in that future team at all.
  • Several influential voices within Open Vld have doubts that CD&V is not watering down the government project too much, and would have no qualms about seeing the Christian Democrats leave. Also with the greens, especially with Ecolo, they have the greatest difficulty with the “vetos” of the Christian Democrats on the ethical. And at Vooruit they are not at all enthusiastic: the arrival of CD&V makes the Flemish socialists mathematically redundant.
  • At the same time, it is an open secret that Coens has to put in a lot of effort to get the group of local representatives so crucial to him in the Vivaldi project: can be seen by the number of Zoom conversations he posts on Instagram himself, he spends time on it almost every day. But the critical concerns from that gut keep coming back.
  • And in addition, there is of course the already famous WhatsApp group of the mayors of CD&V. Day after day, it continues to rain critical comments and sharp questions. Incidentally, De Crem is also a member of that group: he reads everything neatly. That could have been decisive to come out now: he knows that an important part of the middle management carries his message. Coens continues to bravely defend itself on WhatsApp, but it does set a certain tone and atmosphere.
  • “Coens has already barked very hard once. It makes no sense to do that again, then you have to bite. Then next time you just have to leave the table. But he doesn’t seem to be doing that, ”said a negotiator. The incident of last Monday, when the CD&V chairman made all kinds of statements to the cameras in front of his own party bureau, only to silence the matter a few hours later as “a misunderstanding about a mistake made by an employee of the preformateur made ”, so still echoes. But it has not exactly strengthened the position of CD&V.
  • If Coens’ anger was about abortion last week, it was this week’s prize about state reform. In the working group on this, the Greens came up with whole lists of powers that must be returned to the federal level. Servais Verherstraeten (CD&V), the negotiator there, was not exactly pleased with such a move. “The greens, especially Ecolo, are clearly not planning to give anything to CD&V“, As can be heard elsewhere in the negotiations.
  • But at the same time it is noted that the CD&V chairman is already very firmly in Vivaldi in terms of mindset: “It is already very emphatic about what wallets he can get“, We note with the negotiators. “How are you going to leave the table then?”
  • “They stay with CD&V make the same classic balances of power that have slowly destroyed the party. And the strange thing is that those who should dissuade Coens from those classic political reasoning are pushing to join that government anyway, because they are thinking about their own personal careers, ”a colleague-chairman concludes.
  • After all, it has not escaped anyone that Sammy Mahdi (CD&V), the young rival candidate who nearly snatched the presidency of Coens, is particularly loyal to the current chairman.

The big picture: There is more at stake than a therapeutic conversation between De Crem and a newspaper.

  • It is easy to make a number of sharp remarks about Pieter De Crem. This morning in the Wetstraat rained the toxic commentary within Vivaldi, with here and there an exception who admired “the unlikely guts” of the man from Aalter.
  • Most heard comment: “De Crem no longer has a mandate soon, not even in the Chamber. So there is nothing more in it for him, except some more wild kicking around. ”
  • But it would be unwise to dismiss De Crem’s fundamental analysis as nonsense. Because his party, the Christian Democrats, stand for it a sharp choice that is broader than just government participation. De Crem has been defending a “reallotment of the landscape” for much longer, previously referring to a “Union”, a new “Flemish and conservative” project.
  • If CD&V nevertheless opts for federal opposition, against purple-green, and if the Flemish will work even more closely with N-VA, in the Flemish government, such a project will suddenly come very close. “The bond between us and the N-VA is real. The axis between CD&V and the N-VA in the Flemish government is unbreakable. Nobody will cut it, ”says De Crem this morning. In the highest echelons of the N-VA, it is no secret that the door is wide open for such ideas.
  • But that is precisely what this battle revolves within CD&V. It has been going on for some time. In the Swedish period, when CD&V was in a coalition with N-VA, the cabinet of Deputy Prime Minister Kris Peeters (CD&V), notoriously staffed by CD&V cabinet chiefs who appear to be appointed for life and bear a firm ACW stamp, organized the guerrilla within their own government. The left wing, Beweging.net, has been at war with N-VA for years, and does not want to hear about such a conservative and Flemish project.
  • The question is immediately whether the Christian Democrats survive such a schism within the party in the long run: a government participation in Vivaldi will not remove that discord, quite the contrary. Certainly not if the other coalition partners are going to make the CD&V pretty difficult on a federal level, by giving them little or nothing en cours de route.
  • But the determining factor: those CD&V mayors. If Coens fails to calm things down there, the underbelly of CD&V will sooner or later make the choice itself. And to be clear: there are still few figures who believe that it would be the votes of Beweging.net, who bring in the cartload of local mandates.

What to expect today: Another hot day for Vivaldi.

  • By his inexorable timing, De Crem throws the bat in the chicken coop today. Because Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) is expected in the Chamber.
  • He has to come there to explain that she is not keeping her expensive promise. The prime minister would ask for the confidence again after six months. But what was written in the stars is happening today: this minority government just stays put. This will soon be done with an ordinary motion, whereby the Vivaldi parties postpone the matter.
  • But first there is a normal question time, which the opposition will be able to indulge in anyway, and can firmly recall the “broken promises”.
  • The question is mainly how CD&V should behave in the House now. Most of the orange MPs would rather like Vivaldi, but at the same time their leader is very critical. Already not an easy position for the twelve CD&Vs in the room.

Then there is also: A new content leak from the notes by Lachaert and Conner Rousseau (Forward).

  • It is no longer surprising, it remains striking: it has gone through all these negotiations apparently impossible to work discreetly. Because once again the text on which preformers Lachaert and Rousseau work leaks, this time De Tijd was able to get its hands on it.
  • The text itself is a working document, with brackets everywhere and parts that have not yet been finalized. But a few notable passages:
    • The budgetary ambitions seem to be very low. They talk about “from 2021 make a fixed annual budgetary effort of 0.1 percent“. “Depending on the economic recovery and the level of economic growth, an additional variable budgetary effort of 0 to 0.5 percent per year will be made,” it says. That is not exactly a pace at which the budget deficit will be reduced substantially by the end, in 2024.
    • In the field of taxation, the big questions have been left open. There is now talk of one capital gains tax, albeit very vague: “The government will demand a fair contribution from the individuals with the strongest shoulders, with respect for entrepreneurship,” it says.
    • So, the state reform is by no means a major breakthrough, although a declaration to revise the constitution is being drawn up immediately. “We strive for homogeneous competence packages. This can go in the direction of the federation as well as in the direction of the communities and regions ”. For the healthcare is opening the door to regionalization: “It is being investigated how this theme can be brought together at the level as close to the patient as possible, without affecting the solidarity financing.” That is by no means concrete.
    • The famous blue “counter-note”, which Open Vld and MR drafted against purple-yellow, spoke of a recovery plan of 30 billion. No trace of that anymore. However, “higher public investment”, which must be increased from 2.6 percent of GDP to 3.5 percent by 2024. So an increase of about 4 billion euros, gradually. By 2030, one term of office later, it would then be set at 4 percent: in this way the ambitions are passed on properly. Core investments are a greening of the economy and public transport.

Still a glimmer of hope: Yesterday Vivaldi found some peace about Moria’s symbol file.

  • The response of the current government to the crisis in the Greek refugee camp Moria, in which Minister of Asylum and Migration Maggie De Block (Open Vld) wanted to receive twelve minors, put bad blood on the greens. They wanted Belgium to do much more.
  • After a meeting with her Greek colleague Giorgos Koumoutsakos, there is now a gesture from the Wilmès II government, which has three future Vivaldi parties. The Block now promises to take over 100 to 150 asylum seekers: families, mothers and single women.
  • In this respect, the harmony seems to have been somewhat restored in the negotiating parties. The Greens, as well as some MPs from Vooruit and CD&V, were dissatisfied with Belgium’s “poor” efforts. But those folds have now been smoothed out: Member of Parliament Wouter De Vriendt (Groen) responded satisfied.

Fairly unseen: No mandate for Lode Vereeck (Open Vld).

  • The Open Vld’s Lode Vereeck, who is on a collision course with his own party, has been voted out in the Limburg provincial council. It was Vlaams Belang that nominated him as director of UHasselt. Normally such nominations are a formality: one does not vote each other’s candidates away.
  • But this time it is, surely unseen. Vereeck’s nomination was natural in itself a bit of the middle finger to the establishment in Limburg: Vereeck was fired last year by the UHasselt for inappropriate behavior. He himself is still challenging that dismissal.
  • But voting someone out in such nomination is a precedent. According to Limburg Vlaams Belang leader Chris Janssens, who arranged the nomination, that is “dangerous and unseen” and is it about “a character murder”.


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