Belgian Crisis: A Government For Christmas (Gone By Easter)

Belgium will finally ge a new government tomorrow, almost 200 days efter the general election. But it won’t last beyond Easter – actually.

The solution to the stalemate has been to form an “emergency government” dealing with the most urgent things, such as working out a new state budget. This caretaker government will be voted on on Christmas Eve, and will be led by present Premier Guy Verhofstadt, and comprise his Flemish liberal party and its Francophone sister party, the Flemish and Francophone Christian Democrats, and the Francophone Socialists.

The Francophone Christian Democrats – led by Joëlle Milquet, dubbed “Madame Non” for her repeated refusals of all previous governmental constructions, almost opted out of the interim government. That would have meant that the Flemish Christian Democrats would have governed together with its ideological opponent, the Socialists, while not together with its ideological twin party on the other side of the language frontier. In other words, that would have once again proven that in Belgian politics, language is far more important than ideology.

By Easter, the helm is to be handed over to Yves Leterme, the leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats, who after all did come out as the election’s biggest winners. But he has repeatedly failed to unite enough parties on both sides of the language frontier to achieve a government, and the premiership he is going to take over is the doing of Mr Verhofstadt. Thus, he will be governing on someone else’s mandate.

It remains to be seen how that will work.

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3 Responses to “Belgian Crisis: A Government For Christmas (Gone By Easter)”

  1. Johan De Greef, Flanders (Belgium) Says:

    By coincidence I came across this website and started reading the interesting articles on the belgian political crisis. My congratulations for the author – jonathan – for his clear and correct view on what is happening in Belgium nowadays. To give an answer to your last question how that will work: it will not work, everybody in belgium with a little political interest knows that. The liberals – who have heavily lost the last federal elections – are taking revenge on the christian-democrats that are being humiliated, after having received a clear mandat from King Albert II. (No need to refer to Pakistan or Russia for exemples on absolutistic interventions of the State’s highest institution …). Easter 2008 will not bring the magic Egg. There will not be a satisfying solution and as a result of that the regional and European elections in 2009 will lead to a shift towards parties that strongly promote autonomy and/or independency for Flanders. More and more prominent Flemish business people, CEOs, politicians, academics, … get convinced it is time to give up belgium, a relict from 19th century that has never served the interest the majority of it’s inhabitants but only that of royals and diplomats two centuries ago. Let us make the jump: 7,000,000 Flemings making up a new nation state, in the middle of Europe. Our power and strength is to be Europe’s 3rd most productive member state, after Luxemburg and Ireland. We do not need to stick to old-fashioned and blocking Belgium for showing solidarity. Flanders is willing to support the less prosperous Walloons, … just like other European countries. Of course that means that Wallonia – having the economic status of Rumania in the middle of Europe … – will have to undertake some effort. No solidarity-funding may turn into an everlasting life insurancy fund on exclusive basis. With strong socialist-minded Wallonia versus a strong self-developing Flanders it does not make sense to “keep up appearances”. Flanders was in the medieval times a strong ally of England, let’s bring it back on the World’s map.

  2. jonathan Says:

    Thank you for your feedback!

    The last time I saw a poll on the matter, there was no majority in Flanders in favour of a split – there was only a 40 per cent support for it there (and an about 91 per cent opposition in Wallonia, by the way). However, that was, ehrm, some 200 days ago, as I recall. It would be interesting to see any new polls on the matter; if the drawn-out crisis has actually tipped the Flemings collectively over the edge.

  3. Johan De Greef, Flanders (Belgium) Says:

    Jonathan, let me put it another way. There was another poll of the biggest newspaper in Flanders (“Het Laatste Nieuws”) with a complete different, but more explanatory result. 1st question: Are you in favour of an independent Flanders ? 11% said yes, 89% no. 2nd question: If Belgium keeps on existing, how should this state be organised ? 88% were in favour of a strong devolution (confederal state), whereas 12% wanted a unionistic & centralistic Belgian state. This result probably approaches the reality in Belgium. Nobody, except for 15% of principal Flemish nationalists on the one hand side and 10% of unionistic supporters on the other hand really cares what will happen to Belgium. In Flanders most of the people want their daily live secured. However, they feel that their is a need for more Flemish autonomy to do that. But let this exactly be the minimum minimorum, that the Walloon parties have refused over the past 200 days … So, the majority of Flemings still hopes that some “kind” of Belgium remains in the future, whereas they are at the same kind asking something which is not acceptable for the Walloons. If they need to agree with a confederal system – with 2 main different constitutional entities, in fact having an “independent” status – only sharing the name “Belgium” – then the advantages are gone, and the Walloons will probably be the first to blow up the state. It is a matter of time. In their minds, most people in Flanders (60% according to a broad poll) do not think that Belgium will keep on existing. Whether most people in Belgium like it or not, they are preparing for future reality. And that is probably the best on the longer term.


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