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Wilmès government plays extra time

Covid-19 obliges the partners of the future “Vivaldi” coalition to review the timetable for negotiations. The deadline of September 17, when the Prime Minister was to seek confidence in the House, has been postponed for a fortnight.

Covid-19 obliges the partners of the future “Vivaldi” coalition to review the timetable for negotiations. The September 17 deadline, the date on which the Prime Minister was to seek confidence in the House, has been postponed for a fortnight.

From our correspondent Max Helleff (Brussels) – The minority government of Sophie Wilmès will remain in place at least until October 1. On that date, the Prime Minister will again ask for confidence in the House. This is the consequence of the quarantine imposed since Tuesday by the co-preformator Egbert Lachaert.

The Flemish liberal had a good chance of finally bringing together seven parties around a federal government project when he tested positive for the coronavirus. This contamination forced the negotiators to revise their timetable. The deadline of September 17, the date on which Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès was initially supposed to ask for confidence in the House, has been postponed by a fortnight so as not to add to the pressure.

This decision is badly taken by the parties that will not be part of the next federal government. “It is not up to a majority in the constitution, still fragile, to offer this government two more weeks of authority, without consultation. The federal Parliament is not respected ”, estimates François De Smet, the president of the liberal Défi party. For Peter De Roover (Flemish nationalist N-VA), “the Prime Minister is based on the promise she herself made in Parliament on March 17th. What disdain! ”.

These parties should logically not vote for confidence, thus weakening the Wilmès government which had obtained broad parliamentary support six months ago to get through the coronavirus crisis.

False note

Theoretically, however, this scenario should go unheeded. At least, if the emergence of the “Vivaldi” government which Egbert Lachaert and his partner Conner Rousseau are currently working on is confirmed. On September 21, the Flemish Liberal and Socialist will report to the King. Who, logically, will relieve them of their mission to appoint this time the trainer and (probable Prime Minister) of the new executive. All by phone, social distancing requires …

If the partition is fully respected, the “Vivaldi” government promised for the end of September will be made up of socialists, liberals and ecologists from the north and south of the country, to which will join the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V). The risk of hearing one or the other wrong note by then is not zero: at the beginning of the week, the CD&V again cooled its partners by arguing that the initial agreement was not respected. The tone rose, we spoke, and everything (apparently) worked out.

For the time being, negotiations are continuing by interposed videoconference. This method, which eclipses the theatrical style of political negotiations “à la Belgique” (door slamming, angers, threats, etc.) would be worth another according to a UCLouvain researcher for whom “recent studies do not find any difference between negotiations. which take place with a physical presence or by videoconference ”. Rather than slam the door, it would be enough to leave the screen with a click of the mouse. It remains to be seen how we will reconcile at a distance …

There is still good news under Belgian skies. The health crisis would have done less damage than announced at the economic level. According to the Planning Bureau, the slump in growth would be limited to -7.4% (against -10.6% forecast in June). A recession which remains “the strongest in the modern history of Belgium”, according to Philippe Donnay, Planning Commissioner.

The preformer Egbert Lachaert, for his part, evokes a return to equilibrium in 2030. The rigor that should go hand in hand with the recovery of the economy would not be relevant before 2022.


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