When three dogs fight for a bone… the name Johan Vande Lanotte (Vooruit) circulates as formateur

The formation of government had a solid day yesterday: a violent clash in the ‘Institutional Reforms’ working group put the CD&V in direct opposition to the Greens. There are still a lot of pain points to clear up in the area of ​​state reform. In the meantime, a surprising consensus may be in the making around the formateurship: a socialist presents itself, it is ultimately the largest family. But not Paul Magnette (PS), but Johan Vande Lanotte (Forward). That solution does have a number of advantages.

In the news: The negotiators are not home yet.

The details: A clash in one of the working groups shows what happens when experts come to the table.

  • High voltage yesterday, in the “Institutional Reforms” working group, one of the three that, in addition to the main group of the presidents, is preparing the coalition agreement.
  • The seven presidents themselves have been forced to stop their activities: they are all in quarantine, as the rules prescribe. One man has obtained an exception for himself: MR Chairman Georges-Louis Bouchez. That his story is rattling all over the place (how can you sit in a car with an infected person and stay at a distance of 1.5 meters?) Apparently doesn’t matter much: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others“.
  • But in the meantime, the (pre) formation has entered an interesting phase: apart from the presidents and their Sherpas, a broader group of party toppers is now also coming to the table. The reason is simple: in the they join working groups to deepen a number of sensitive themes.
  • This immediately means that there is also more technical knowledge at the table, more protagonists with file knowledge on the specific subject. But that does not immediately make things easier: where chairmen can broadly find consensus, that is sometimes more difficult when the fine print emerges.
  • “Once we really work on texts, rather than on major principles, a different phase in the negotiations begins of course. It would rather strange it had to give white smoke from day one“, As can be heard from a participant. And for the record: these working groups were of course also set up around the “difficult” themes.
  • According to various sources, the experts of CD&V, including federal party leader Servais Verherstraeten (CD&V), came into serious conflict with the greens of Ecolo and Groen, including party leader Kristof Calvo (Groen) on Monday. “Spicy, but respectful“, Someone describes it. “On Friday it went well for the first time, but yesterday it was put on edge that they differ quite seriously,” said another.
  • After all, the question at hand is simple: how far do they want to go to prepare a state reform? and to start executing already in some pieces?
  • Stand there two visions diametrically opposed: the Flemish Christian Democrats absolutely want new steps to be taken in strengthening the federal states. “It must not be lost years. That will also have to be evident from the results that we will be presenting later ”, can be heard in CD&V circles.
  • They see the outlines that PS and N-VA mutually agreed in the Purple-Yellow period as a “benchmark”, against which the Vivaldi team will soon be measured: how much “less” does it contain, without N-VA?
  • But the greens, who share one fraction in the House, and in recent years, under the impetus of leader Kristof Calvo, have become increasingly manifest have embarked on a course to strengthen the “Belgian level”, show very little appetite to continue in passing powers to the federal states. On the contrary, they want the opposite movement in a number of areas: the symbolic value of this would be enormous for their vision.
  • CD&V is not easy in those negotiations: none of the Purple-Green parties is really enthusiastic about further state reform. The greens are on the above-mentioned tricolor line. The liberals, especially the MR, are certainly not wild about the plans of CD&V. After all, Open Vld also sees the institutional as a “USP”, a unique selling proposition, to to depose itself from the N-VA in the future. “Where they go for the demolition of the land, we go for the reconstruction,” a liberal source summarizes nicely.
  • The socialists were willing to go quite far with N-VA: certainly within the PS are a number of convinced regionalists. What they don’t want to say in front of the cameras, they do internally: it is clear that the socialists are currently the best ally of CD&V on this dossier.
  • But the PS also has a Brussels wing, for example in the area of ​​the police zones is drawing a hard line: no merger of those zones, as requested by the Flemish parties.
  • Just to say it is Search hard for CD&V for real allies at the table. To the extent that CD&V has to reflect on the strategy to be followed: how will the “much needed” guarantees, which chairman Joachim Coens (CD&V) demanded at the start, translate into concrete terms?
  • “In any case, there was no cutting, that happens at the level of the chairmen. We’ll see, but this is really not an easy file“Says a negotiator.

Interesting: The premiership is (again) about the tongues.

  • In short, there are three names circulating that can be taken seriously: Paul Magnette (PS), Alexander De Croo (Open Vld) and Koen Geens (CD&V). If the MR sticks to their European Commissioner, Didier Reynders (MR), and nothing points in any other direction, after all, every sensible person in the Wetstraat knows that Sophie Wilmès (MR) is out of the race.
  • But now one name (again) pops up, which surprisingly could take over the leadership of Vivaldi: Johan Vande Lanotte (Forward). It is a scenario that is serious about tongues, according to multiple sources.
  • A number of issues are at play manifest in his favor:
    • The Socialists have always claimed that they are want to supply the prime minister as “largest family”. They do not intend to let go of that ambition. With 28 seats, PS and Vooruit together stand out above the rest.
    • But although Paul Magnette (PS) is by far the largest at the table, with 19 seats, he is provoking enormous resistance from the MR and Georges-Louis Bouchez. This rivalry is a risk: they want to absolutely avoid a new squabble cabinet.
    • An even more important argument than the resistance from the Gulden Vlieslaan is that the prime minister of this government is quite a Fleming: that takes away the feeling of a cabinet “dominated by French speakers”, which does not have a majority on the Flemish side.
    • But that “Flemish prime minister” is not self-evident: CD&V does not like Alexander De Croo (Open Vld), and Open Vld even threatens with elections “if it should be Koen Geens (CD&V)”.
    • CD&V now seems to have tempered its ambitions, Joachim Coens (CD&V) would like solid portfolios. Although elsewhere in the party at the top you can hear “that Koen is extremely suitable in terms of career to lead this team“: The idea is therefore not completely stored away.
    • And also at the top of Open Vld they are convinced: “The most suitable person is without a doubt De Croo. This team can also embody that, much more than others. ” But at the same time you can hear that “if others want to pay the price for the Sixteen, we don’t necessarily have to“.
    • Moreover, Vande Lanotte himself is one very experienced man, deputy prime minister for many years, also under purple-green, who can make the synthesis perfectly in the Sixteen and keep the team running.
  • What is the argument then against the Ostend?
    • A prime minister who has a total of 9 seats in the House: mathematically that is extremely precarious. Forward is the smallest party in the Vivaldi coalition, and what’s more, it’s not even necessary to get a majority of the votes. That makes that the “strength” of this prime minister is zero mathematically. Vande Lanotte will therefore have to make the most of his “moral authority”.
    • For Conner Rousseau, party chairman of Vooruit, it is also by no means obvious: his project of party renewal is suddenly in the shadow of someone who is very strongly adhered to the sp.a label. And how can “Forward” then molting into a broader future project, if it also supplies the prime minister? From a story-technical point of view, that will be difficult, but who knows, people at the Grasmarkt may still see a profit in it: it is certainly spectacular.
    • Vande Lanotte himself cannot exactly be called “new” and “fresh”: the man had been Deputy Prime Minister since 1994 under Jean-Luc Dehaene (CD&V). He played that role continuously between 1994 and 2005, with a one-year hiatus in 1998, before becoming Deputy Prime Minister again in 2011. Few people are in Wetstraat been more entwined with power.
    • Moreover, Vande Lanotte is dragging a reputation as a “fixer”, as a man who likes to arrange things. He was already that as chief of cabinet, in the 1980s, and that has never changed, not even as mayor of Ostend, his last executive mandate.
    • From the purple-green past, things like the “Silver Fund”, a solution to pay the pensions that failed miserably. So there are some gifts waiting for the opposition.

To keep an eye on: By the end of the week, clarity about the premiership.

  • More than likely, the saga around the Sixteen will remain that way simmer for a few more days. Because until Thursday evening, or Friday, the party chairpersons cannot physically meet.
  • But in the corridors in any case go through a bunch of scenarios, and the puzzle is put everywhere.
  • Everyone realizes that by now white smoke this weekend is absolutely necessary, around the name of the future prime minister: further auctioning can damage the image of the Vivaldi team from the start.

Remarkable: The Vivaldi coalition will be one of the most powerful “minority cabinets” in any single language group in the last 40 years.

  • It is Le Soir, of all people, who did the research, and came up with an objective conclusion: the Flemish parties that are taking steps in Vivaldi, historically, something exceptional.
  • After all, no government has ever been created in which the two largest parties in the country, from one language group, Flanders in this case, are not present. This concerns N-VA and Vlaams Belang:
    • The N-VA received 1,086,787 votes.
    • Vlaams Belang received 810,177 votes.
    • The PS received 641,623 votes.
  • But Le Soir started digging since 1981 and nevertheless also objectively stated that there was there have been many governments with a minority in one language group: eight cabinets to be precise. Or even nine, if you count Wilmès II. Of course, this government has the merit of not counting a majority anywhere: it only has 38 seats.
  • The largest “minorities”:
    • Martens V, from 1981 to 1985 only 46 percent of the French-speaking seats.
    • Michel I, from 2014 to 2019, with only 31 percent of the French-speaking seats.
  • The others, including the Leterme I and II governments and the Van Rompuy government and the Di Rupo government, had all but a very narrow minority on the Flemish side: 49 percent of the Dutch-speaking seats each time.
  • Vivaldi, with only 47 percent of the Flemish seats, would be the team that, historically, the Flemish most in the “minority”.

Clearly stated: Bart De Wever (N-VA) is going for a sixth term.

  • In De Tijd, Theo Francken (N-VA) makes it clear that he is not a candidate to become party chairman. “I’m not going to stand up to Bart”, he says in conversation with the newspaper. Within the party can be heard that Francken, the electoral goldcrest, had already indicated that he would fit to become chairman.
  • After five terms of De Wever, who sees his three-year mandate expire again in October, Francken was the most striking possible successor. But too many people in the party fear that he cannot make the synthesis, like the Antwerp mayor can. Francken is considered an “anti-system” politician.
  • Possible other names, like Valerie Van Peel (N-VA), are too much of a “system candidate”, embodying the softer side of the N-VA. And so they end up with that one inevitable name: De Wever.
  • To to keep both currents together within the N-VA, And especially in order to be able to provide a clear answer to the verbal violence of Vlaams Belang, the current chairman remains the most suitable person, is the message that various leaders gave to the current chairman.
  • And so De Wever seems well on its way to being chairman again for three years, and the record of Karel Dillen, former leader of the Vlaams Blok.

To follow: When will there be a new Security Council?

  • It had to be the last time, for Sophie Wilmès (MR) as Prime Minister. In doing so, she insisted on being able to do so with full authority, an extension that the House should force for her government on Thursday. Because a new Security Council is scheduled for 23 September, who should review the corona measures.
  • In the meantime, the pressure rises as always: the famous chorus of virologists and biostatisticians warns in the run-up to the Security Council that the world is ending. There must be “a strong signal from our directors”. And also: “If we wait any longer, we will face much bigger problems within a few weeks”. It now sounds familiar.
  • What is a fact: there is an increase in the number of tested infections. But that means not yet that the medical device is in danger of being overrun at this time. That in the meantime is still not clear in the figures for the number of hospital beds and the number of deaths, where that famous “second wave” was, which again led to panicky calls from the “experts” this summer, remains a statement.
  • Anyway: the Wetstraat does not seem to be going to be rushed just like that, this time. Several important sources argue in particular for “serious long-term plans”, and especially “things that, once decided, can also be maintained”. The current “bubble of five” and the strict rules around quarantine, when contamination occurs in the circle you are in, are not always closely followed.

Bizarre Case: Lode Vereeck (Open Vld) has given a mandate to UHasselt, of all Vlaams Belang.

  • It is a punishment story in the Importance of Limburg: Vlaams Belang will soon nominate none other than Lode Vereeck on behalf of their party in the provincial council, as a board member at Hasselt University.
  • Vereeck was fired in that conscious UHasselt as an economics professor for inappropriate behavior towards some students. Vereeck, a former leader of Lijst Dedecker, but has been active at Open Vld for some time now, appealed against that dismissal to the Council of State. Incidentally, the Limburg public prosecutor’s office dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
  • But Vereeck’s designation seems like a provocation. From Vlaams Belang, that’s the professor returns in triumph to his university. But also from Vereeck himself, who as a liberal now suddenly receives a mandate from Vlaams Belang. It is not difficult to estimate how that case falls with his current party: the broad party leadership does not fail to detest Vlaams Belang public time and again.
  • Vereeck itself has been around for a while on a collision course with the current chairman, Egbert Lachaert. De Limburger accuses Lachaert of having denied his internal electoral promise to “stop purple-green”.
  • At the headquarters of Open Vld it can be heard that the statutory committee is going to review his case with a view to possible exclusion from the party.


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