The Belgian political soap: back to start


Belgian politics??? Hmm not quite what you had in mind when you saw the soap opera sunday button, I am sure. If you really hate politics, you can better leave again and come back in the next days when I'll post about other stuff. But trust me, there isn't a country with more soapy politics than Belgium right now. For those of you that haven't been reading my posts in the past 6 months, I'll summerize in one sentence: We are without a federal government for 6 months now and the negotations to form a new government are a real soap while the rest of the world fears the splitup of the country.
If you want background, go and check here. This story even got linked to from the Wall Street Journal and in the online newspaper Theissue.com. So although it is extremely lenghty, I dare to recommend it to anyone who tries to make sense of it all!
So what has been happening in those last months? Check here (the elections), here (reflections after the elections), here, here, here, here, here, here and here. Whaa, isn't all those links a proof that it is a true soap??
So last time I wrote about the formation of our federeal government, Yves Leterme was trying to form a government, but since the Frenchspeaking didn't give in quickly enough, the flemish parties in the parliament have forced a unilateral vote to split up an electoral district. The Frenchspeaking saw it as the start of our country's split-up, a true provocation etc and used for the first time ever a procedure to stop bills forced from one part of the country upon the other.
In the mean time that seems ages ago, as the following has happened:
  • The frenchspeaking parties demand a sign of goodwill for the state of Belgium before they want to continue any negotiations....the Flemish parties are insulted and refuse such a sign
  • The king (hence Yves Leterme) suggests to make a government with only socio-economic topics while all state structure reform would be referred to a council where all Belgian political parties can participate and prepare a new state reform.
  • CD&V (the party to which belongs Yves Leterme) and their radical ally party changes its mind and demands from the Frenchspeaking parties guarantees that a state reform will take place before they continue negotiations. The press comments a lot on this 180° turnaround of Yves Leterme.
    (=> since they negotiate with parties that do not have 2/3 majority, it is impossible to agree upon such a reform themselves....hence to demand guaruantees from the other negotiating parties is quite ridiculous in my mind).
  • The presidents of the parliament the the Senat talk to all political parties to see whether they can organise a council to prepare a state reform with support of all political parties.
  • After a time of inactivity Yves Leterme starts up his negotiations again in silence and he works on the last twist points being a potential state reform and its degree of change.
  • A Wallonian housewife organises a national "pro-Belgian" demonstration. In the week before it, the Frenchspeaking newspapers spend multiple pages to this demonstration, mobilising people to come.
    In the Flemish press, only the day before it gets briefly mentioned that such a demonstration is pending.

    In the end 35000 demonstrators walk through Brussels to support the Belgian state. Most of them come from Wallonia , nevertheless there are also Flemish delegations walking along.
  • 400 Wallonian students hug with Flemish students in Leuven.
  • The daughter of one of the Flemish negotiators borrows her dad's blackberry and sends an e-mail to one of the Frenchspeaking negotiators to ask her to stop attacking her dad.
  • In the second half of November there is general optimism in the media that there will be a government before Christmas. Also Yves Leterme claims to be very close to an agreement now. All parties now claim that any day that the negotiations take is one day too much and that this country needs a government urgently.
  • The national parliament votes a bill to "split up Belgium immediately". The vote is intiated by the Flemish parties and except for Vlaams Belang (a seperatistic party) and some people of NVA, all representatives vote against the bill. Hence is proven that there is NO political majority in Belgium to split up the country and the Flemish have given their sign of goodwill to the Frenchspeaking parties after all.
  • Bart De Wever, negotiator for the radical NVA, claims in a interview for a frenchspeaking newspaper that Belgium has no added value at all for him.
  • Yves Leterme has a note ready that is ok for MR, CDH, CD&V and VLD....they only wait for an answer of NVA anymore (the very small party that got allied with CD&V, the political party of Yves Leterme). In the end NVA states not to be happy with the nota as it doesn't guarantee the state reform well enough.
  • The next day CD&V changes mind, not willing to give up their alliance with NVA, and Yves Leterme starts working on his note again much to the disapproval of all the other negotiators and who are not willing to compromise much more.

    Even the Flemish press starts bashing CD&V and NVA and Yves Leterme. The press doesn't talk about tensions between Flanders and Wallonia anymore, but wonders what's wrong with those politicians and how they could have lost touch with the people that much. Words like "theatre", "farce",
  • Yves Leterme gives all the other negotiators an ultimatum by 1/12 to answer on some questions , if not he gives up his formation attempt.
    Journalists know already that he already wanted to resign at the king before he gave the ultimatum. So the ultimatum is only to blame another party???
  • As was expected , CDH, the Wallonian Christian Democrats refuse the ultimatum. Yves Leterme's second formation attempt crashes almost 6 months after the elections!!

    Nevertheless he gets a standing ovation from his political party when he arrives there. (this has received a lot of criticism in the press).
    CD&V also demands that Yves Leterme has to become prime minister in the government.
    (huh...in Belgium it is tradition that who succeeds to form a government becomes prime minister.... Yves Leterme has had 2 attempts and has kept this country busy for 6 months, so how can they even demand such things anymore?? And if he can't get them to agree on anything during that time, how is he supposed to have the leadership later on to lead a government??? )
  • The king assigns our liberal resigning prime minister Guy Verhofstadt to start another information round to check any options.
    => to which degree can the resigning government that currently only can manage the current affairs without any power to take new decisions, get new powers in order to make some urgent decisions that are needed for this country...with the support of the parliament?
    => can there be negotiations with more political parties to form a government that has a 2/3rd majority....(more and more parties seem to be in favor of this at the moment!!).
    => can we form an asymmetric government with parties of different political families across the language border eg flemish socialists without the wallonian socialists etc...
  • The head of the Wallonian liberals MR is furious at the head of the Wallonian social-democrats because she has claimed in the wallonian media that she is the only protector of the frenchspeaking rights.
  • Yves Leterme compares the Frenchspeaking press with radio Milles Collines, proclaiming they have a hidden political agenda and make him look bad on purpose. (what the hell...how dares he to make such a comparison) (whine whine whineeeeeeee, he feels like such a martyr). These statements got so much reaction that it even triggered questions on the Euro-African top.
  • A big national poll shows that new elections wouldn't shift the cards very much among the political parties, but Guy Verhofstadt now gets preference above Yves Leterme to become Prime minister

Usually I try to stick to the facts without sharing too much my personal opinion. This time I did add more comments in italic than I am used to. Can you tell I am fed up with this bunch of immature politicians that only think of their ego? Can you tell that the people that were supposed to take the lead, have disappointed me greatly? The press certainly is, I totally am. This is not a clash between 2 language groups anymore, this isn't a clash between 2 cultures anymore....it is simply a political strategy game already for the next elections, it is simply a clash between ego's. How disgusting! This soap is no longer fun to watch. It has become shameful and sad. And unless Guy Verhofstadt can get them all aligned rather quickly, there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet.

Sigh.
Soap Opera Sunday is hosted by Walking Kateastrophe this week, so be sure to check it out and find much more entertaining soapy stories that are surely much better than my post today. For everyone playing along, please link your SOS post there. Everyone is invited to play! See the rules here.

Comments

I have no brain right now. I desperately want to read this, but am going to wait for a time when I'm actually awake!
Wholly Burble said…
Heavens! Reading through this makes me think The Young and The Restless and Days of Our Lives are picnics.

It all sounds very tragic, and very convoluted. Well, it sounds like no one is "at the helm" and the ship is heading for an iceberg.

I hope the soap opera ends and leadership is restored soon!