Politics

Wetstraat gambles at Open Vld on Lachaert, who is already gently pushing things with his plans

The chairman race at Open Vld will deliver a new leader in Melsensstraat 34 within two weeks. But already the shadow of Egbert Lachaert, the group leader of Open Vld in the House, is hanging over discussions about the formation of a new government. His plan to negotiate from the center is not dying.

In the news: There is a new National Security Council tomorrow.

The details: A number of things that were not settled last week will be on the agenda again tomorrow.

  • Phase 2 of the exit plan, which starts on Monday 18 May, needs to be further elaborated. That is immediately a big chunk of what will be treated tomorrow. The stress is not too great: the figures are almost all good, the number of newly admitted infections in hospitals is falling rapidly.
  • The market vendors, a professional group that was left behind in frustration, will more than likely return to work on May 18.
  • Good news for the culture sector as well: the museums are finally allowed to open their doors again, from Monday. They will do this through a system of controlled access: everything revolves around the idea of ​​having people make a ‘controlled’ visit, so that social distancing is respected. The same rules will apply to zoos, and possibly on June 8 for amusement parks.
  • Contact professions are also given the green light, albeit with strict safety regulations. Hairdressers and beauticians all will have to work with mouth masks, and will probably only be able to open the doors by appointment, the cabinets of various federal ministers confirm.
  • The plans of the federal states for the regulate sport further, were ready last week. But only the competitions were arranged: professional football is apparently more important than the youth. They should get the green light tomorrow: for example, all athletes under the age of 12 will be allowed to do everything again, even play matches. At least, so are the plans, the question is whether they remain intact in their entirety.
  • The owners of a country residence may expect some clarity. Last time, it was decided that those second residents should not return to their property until 8 June. That remains legal quicksand, and in the meantime can no longer be enforced by police. The chance is therefore not small that that date will change, because the measure is barely tenable. Moreover, there is more than the coast: the discussion also applies to second properties in the rest of the country.
  • Yet much remains undecided: the technique of the Security Council consists of deciding everything in slices, and not really looking far ahead. In the Netherlands, the exit from the lockdown is already fully planned until September. And Germany is also much further ahead. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, the entire catering industry reopened there yesterday. In Cologne you drink a drink on a terrace again, with us the catering industry hardly knows where it stands. Only that nothing is allowed to open until June 8.

Meanwhile on the political agenda: The race at Open Vld is slowly moving to a new boiling point.

  • It remains very strange: campaigning in times of corona. It will follow on Friday some debate between the four candidate presidents, Egbert Lachaert, Bart Tommelein, Els Ampe and Stefaan Nuytten, throughout this race. That will probably be the only moment that the four physically come together, albeit with the necessary distance. In advance, the members can ask questions for the candidates: the whole is not live, but is recorded in advance and then broadcast on all channels of Open Vld.
  • Without internal meetings, without contact with the base, it is very difficult to estimate how the race is going. The feeling remains that Egbert Lachaert the frontrunner is. He is amply in favor of the bookmakers, the question is on what data those professional gamblers base themselves on. Because there are few reference points.
  • Striking: the Zoom meetings, which have to replace physical contact, are not exactly mass gatherings. The other major candidate, Bart Tommelein (Open Vld), barely got 11 participants together for a meeting, including himself and his running mate Francesco Vanderjeugd. Lachaert does a little better: with him, the number of participants fluctuates around 30 people.
  • But both figures seem a drop in an enormous sea of ​​Open Vld members, the liberals say they count more than 60,000 supporters with a party card. The question is rather how Lachaert and Tommelein their get-out-to-vote organizing: it comes down to it to mobilize in that big sea, and to motivate a group of voters not to forget to give their support this time, in those strange times.
  • Lachaert is very active on social media, and also mainly counts on aldermen, mayors, people with a local network. The question is whether these “influencers” in corona times, without local gatherings, can still influence the voice of their supporters and push the race towards “their” candidate.
  • Tommelein certainly has one advantage over Lachaert: he is much more visible in the media. That already led to frustration in the Lachaert camp: time and time again the public broadcaster steps up the coast mayor, while the group leader less airplay gets. But that is almost always about his role as Ostend’s mayor: whether it gives him an advantage in the internal race is the question. “People want to see a chairman of a party, not a chef on the coast who wants to enter cards on the beach,” says a party topper.
  • The third dog in the skittles game is Els Ampe, Flemish Member of Parliament from Brussels. She stays with her daily video rants demand attention. In doing so, she systematically sets sail against policy-makers and their approach, even though Open VLD is in the government and perhaps provides the flagship of that policy with Minister of Health Maggie De Block (Open VLD). The question is whether Ampe convinces many members, or rather repels them: there were already very strong reactions that she would harm the party. Nobody internally really expects a kind of “Trump effect”.

The essence: De Wetstraat is preparing for a new era at Open Vld.

  • It is clear that Gwendolyn Rutten (Open Vld) saying goodbye is the boss of the Flemish liberals. Alexander De Croo (Open Vld), the Deputy Prime Minister, has to ensure continuity in the contacts with the other party leaders. It is no coincidence that he therefore comes to the fore more informally, more often visits the other parties. The side effect: his name buzzes like prime minister, not exactly something the Deputy Prime Minister is waiting for.
  • Because one of the many rules that apply about the Sixteen: whose name falls too far in advance, often sees his chances shrink drastically. “Well, you have to do something like that subtle do it, if you want to, ”said a party chairman about De Croo’s ambitions.
  • Because at least as striking behind the scenes: the statements by Lachaert about the process of government formation are closely followed by fellow chairmen. After all, the candidate chairman launched a noted idea last weekend. He wants one draft a substantive note, together with three other parties that he sees as a “center”: the three government parties MR, Open Vld and CD&V, but also sp.a.
  • The latter did the lights turn on in different places: such a construction is clearly set up to prepare for a possible deal between PS and N-VA: “The PS and the N-VA are not going to find each other spontaneously, that is now clear. The other parties may fulfill a bridge function. I want a substantive note on the table, ”said Lachaert literally.
  • That did set things in motion: yesterday there were some contacts between the leaders from different parties. Lachaert was asked to explain his idea. With Joachim Coens at CD&V and Conner Rousseau at sp.a, if Lachaert would make it, three chairmen will be sitting at the table without much baggage from the past. No old open wounds, or feuds that have been playing for years, but rather a white sheet. That could therefore play into their favor in the future to become “deal makers”.
  • In both parties, sp.a and CD&V, it is striking that the presidents are actively expanding their power. Especially at CD&V, where the shadow of Hilde Crevits (CD&V) and Koen Geens (CD&V) as leaders of the corona crisis fell over the chairman, today Coens clearly seems to have his back. The fact that a new CD&V minister is standing up with Nathalie Muylle in the federal government, who is not doing badly in the media, and is also from West Flanders, does not suit Coens at all.

The big picture: In any case, a government must always be made with the PS.

  • And look, even with the PS one has looked at Lachaert’s idea with due attention. French-speaking party chairman Paul Magnette (PS) lashed out strongly at the N-VA last weekend, and set the bar high to ever work with Bart De Wever (N-VA): a hefty jerk to the left, socially -economically, and a community standstill. But there are nuances behind the scenes: it is clear that socio-economically the N-VA currently seems more willing to make concessions than the liberals.
  • Relations between MR and PS have been on the edge for some time, but more than ever, MR Chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez’s sad approach is causing irritation. In the Walloon government already crackled expanded between the liberals and greens, with the PS who do not want to be associated too much with hard, liberal policies. There is a realization that Open Vld under Lachaert will not exactly take a left turn.
  • The same goes for the institutional discussion: the PS has been ready for a long time to draw firm conclusions about what still has to be done federal and what not. But in front of the scenes, they adhere strongly to the idea of ​​“defending Belgium”. For example, De Croo’s plea to re-federalize health care was gratefully accepted for the cameras, but socialists internally still other analyzes of what should be done post-corona. Every now and then there must also be “strategic communication”, according to the PS.
  • But is that why the door to N-VA is open again? It continues to look coffee grounds. The PS speculates on one as well simple continuation of Wilmès II. Magnette alluded to this by referring to “minority governments.” There too: it is by no means a preferred scenario for the French-speaking socialists to leave federal policy to the MR for eternity. But it mainly puts pressure on CD&V and Open Vld, where they insist on a workable majority to move.
  • There is no real acceleration yet, but everyone is preparing for a transfer of power at Open Vld. And at the same time one expects below the waterline surely sooner or later movement between N-VA and PS.
  • “It remains difficult, purely practical then. You can don’t see each other live, talking on the phone is something completely different. That makes it even more difficult to build a relationship of trust. How will we do that in the coming weeks? Not all obvious ”, is the comment of a party chairman.

Striking to read: Joachim Coens and not Sammy Mahdi as chairman of CD&V, that was “a capital error,” says VRT journalist Ivan De Vadder.

  • Today market researcher Jan Callebaut and VRT journalist Ivan De Vadder come out with a new book: The DNA of Flanders – What do the Flemish really want?. It is a very interesting work, in which Callebaut questions the political insight of De Vadder on the basis of his years of market research, to make a political analysis together.
  • De Vadder and Callebaut are not afraid of the sharp statements. They are like that very critical for the three traditional parties, who have existential problems. The voter’s perception of CD&V in particular is very dark, De Vadder in de Morgen confirms: “CD&V has completely lost its ACW side. That party is absolutely no longer associated with some of its core values. The traditional parties have once brought a utopia into reality, but according to the voter they lack credibility, decisiveness, success – all those associations that indicate that people trust a party to shape policy. ”
  • Callebaut paints an equally dark picture in De Tijd: “CD&V has a major problem. She is no longer associated with success, strength, charismatic leadership and honesty. It has surpassed the dimensions of humanity and solidarity. CD&V is still the market leader in only one dimension: traditionalism. ”
  • That is certainly striking, because Callebaut traditionally has good ties with the Christian Democrats: he was once the man behind the scenes, which propelled Yves Leterme (CD&V) and Kris Peeters (CD&V) to popular heights. But the data from his research does not lie, and he does not mince words.
  • The future does not immediately promise much good. Because of the choice of CD&V members in the fall of 2019, to elect Joachim Coens, and not Sammy Mahdi, as chairman, De Vadder is equally devastating. “I think the members of CD&V are satisfied with Joachim Coens as chairman. That makes sense, because they have chosen a leader in their image. I personally think that was a capital error. A party that wants to grow must recruit elsewhere. You would rather do that with a figure that appeals to other people. ”
  • Coens eventually made it through 53.12 percent of the vote. Mahdi, who is now a Member of Parliament, stranded at 46.88 percent.

Painful to determine: While all of Europe is creating tracing apps, discussing one type of underlying technology, Belgium does nothing.

  • In Europe, a fierce battle is raging over which underlying technology will be used to increase the tracking apps for contact research of corona patients. It is striking that, without coordination at European level, is not an unambiguous choice of how those apps are organized will become.
  • It was already clear in March that apps can play an important role in controlling the pandemic: they can keep up with whom an infected person all had contact. Contact tracing is essential to quickly contain outbreaks of the virus.
  • What started as the development of a single European protocol quickly went off the rails when, in mid-April, the two Silicon Valley giants, Apple and Google, announced that they their smartphone software would launch one protocol. Almost all European smartphones are immediately accessible on that system. However, Europe remains divided due to discussions about privacy and about “owning your own technology”.
  • The Financial Times outline the schism: France, Norway and the United Kingdom have each opted for “proprietary technology”, while Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland all chose the Google-Apple standard. This makes future exchange of data, and soon traveling without barriers between those countries, potentially much more difficult.
  • The European Commission is working hard to find a consensus, but a meeting between the Commission and the Telecom ministers was unsuccessful.
  • The responsible minister of Telecom in Belgium knows the file well: Philippe De Backer (Open Vld) became responsible at the beginning of the corona crisis for the material to deal with the crisis, plus the rollout of the app.
  • It has now completely changed course: De Backer keeps repeating that countries such as Austria, which already have an app, do not have the necessary number of users. “An app is not really necessary if there is manual tracing,” he said. How Belgium then soon as the only European country will not have an app, is difficult to explain. In any case, there is certainly no initiative from the federal level. After weeks of hesitation, the entire assignment was passed on April 21 to the regions to organize contact tracing. There are hardly any apps left, the focus is on call centers, which in Flanders alone can cost more than 100 million euros.
  • Meanwhile there are big questions about privacy in manual contact tracing: to what extent is personal data in a call center in Flanders protected, and data encrypted and protected by Google and Apple not? Incidentally, that question can be asked for all products that Belgian consumers already use today from Apple and Google: if both were not reliable for a corona app, or for the underlying software on just about all Belgian smartphones?
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