A new Belgian government

if you are not sitting down yet, please do go sit down ....

Yeah, really, I am not kidding. Yves Leterme has reached his deadline and in his third attempt, he has succeeded in forming a government just before the interim-government was going to expire. Guy Verhofstadt who has preceded our country for 8 years and who stept in after 6 months of unsuccesful negotiations to form an interim government despite his election loss, has resigned this afternoon as prime minister of our country. The new government will start 282 days after the elections in 2007.

The government Leterme I is made up of 5 political parties: CD&V (Flemish christen democrats) without their kartelpartner NVA, VLD (Flemish liberals), MR (Wallonian liberals), CDH (Wallonian christen democrats) and PS (Wallonian socialists). This is the same composition as the interim government that was ruling the country over the last 3 months, however there has been a slight shift in minister portfolio's. There will be 15 ministers and 7 state secretaries, carefully balanced among the political parties and even more importantly over the 2 major Belgian language groups using different formula's. Politics in Belgium is a juggling act.

The negotiations about the government agreement en who would become minister lasted until this very moment. Interesting fact is that the NVA, the kartel partner of CD&V (Leterme's party) does not have a minister in this government. As a matter of fact, it was for a long time uncertain if they would vote for this new government in the parliament. That is because the government agreement does not hold any guarantees that the state reform demanded by them will decided. That agreement had been postponed until 15th of June and NVA will then decide whether they continue to support the government lead by their kartel partner. CD&V itself threatens in every speech or statement as well, that a state reform needs to be guaranteed by then or they'll blow up the government that they are leading themself. Interesting huh? During the elections they had promised not to be in a government if there were no such guarentees, but that decision seems to have been postponed.

It's not the only decision or hot issue that is still pending. Issues that prevented the forming of the government last summer and fall are still undecided. Although Yves Leterme claims that his government agreement holds a lot of specific measures, he also had to admit that another bunch of them needs to be agreed and specified still in the coming weeks/months. Especially the numbers/quantities/...in the measures would still be missing, a budget was invisible.
If the world was worried last year that Belgium would split up, the national press on both sides of the language borders were interestingly sharing the same opinion over the last days

"the only merit of this government is that it is a government " (Het Nieuwsblad)

"premature" (De Morgen)

"government of postponing" (De Morgen)

" ready to be the worst government of all times" (De Standaard)

"hot air" (Het Nieuwsblad)

"doomed to fail" (Het Nieuwsblad)

" Vague and not ambitious " (Le Soir)
" This is not a government" (Het Nieuwsblad)

"A catalogue of good intentions" (La Libre Belgique)

"No future" (La libre Belgique)

Nice list huh? Don't worry, there's still fans on the forums of all these newspapers defending their heroes in the government. But the poll shows that 60% of the readers expects the government to fall before the summer. As de Standaard writes: the pessimists expect it to last 3 months, the optimists until the regional elections in 2009. There's a lot of advocates to combine the regional elections with the federal ones in order to ensure that the same political parties are in power in all levels to facilitate negotiations. If this government is not stable, the political stress for the regional elections in 2009 will definately doom them. After all, all the non-resolved hot issues (state reform, split of BHV electoral district, ...) are still vague in the agreement . So all discussions still need to continue while the government is operational.

Obviously there is no law obliging the government to have everything agreed upon beforehand. That is probably impossible anyway. And it's not like there is nothing agreed yet either. If they have the necessary agreements before all the budgets need to be signed off, I guess that's ok. After all they do represent the majority , so any agreement is valid. But it's not very credible if all discussion points keep being pushed forward into the future.

So I wonder...what is the difference of this government with the interim government before that was only there to take urgent measures and to buy time for the necessary negotiations??? You tell me.

Oh you might find it interesting as well that in Humo's Pop Poll (a popular Flemish magazines extensive popularity election) ,

  • Yves Leterme was first in the category "Man of the year" but also in " Ass of the year" (beating George W Bush in this category who had been first here the last 7 years!) and came in 2nd in the category "Most competent politician".
  • Guy Verhofstadt was voted "Most competent politician".
  • Joëlle Milquet (saying no to all state reforms requested by the Flemish) scored very high in "Woman of the year" but won "Most irritating politician".


Okay, the next time I feel like whining over our political system, I'll just remember Belgium! Thanks for the post, Goofball - it was very informative!

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