"Do you have a government yet?"

"Hey congratulations with your record"

"Wow, your country is clearly proving that one does not need a government at all"

"Tesco claims to know more of their customers than the government.   Where I come from (Belgium) that's not quite an impressive statement".
"My country gets it's 4th election in 7 years. It could be worse, Belgium has still no government and broke a world record".

It's amazing how often our political situation is a topic of discussion abroad and how often I hear similar quotes. It's just as amazing how it is no longer a topic of discussion within Belgium at the same time. I wanted to check the newspaper today to see how the negotiations are going but could not see an article on the topic.  Don't get me wrong, we get plenty of bold statements and quotes from politicians  that trigger a sea of protest and irritation which on its turn sends of a new reaction.
But whether there's been negotiations today or meetings between which parties....I have no clue?

So what has happened over the last year:  Next week it's been a year since our government resigned and launched new elections.

Right after the elections there was quite some optimism as in each part of the country a clear winner came out: NVA in Flanders (Flemish nationalistic, right wing conservative)  and PS (socialist party, left in Wallonia).  As the political landscape wasn't as fragmented as feared those 2 winners were condemned to each other to find a compromise and form the government.  As the leader of the NVA gave the impression not aiming at the title of Prime Minister (ha, wouldn't that be ironic, leading a government of the country  you want to slowly dissolve), the PS and NVA had quite some optimistic initial talks at the start of the summer.

There were talks about state reform, federal budgets to get reassigned to regions, federal powers to get reassigned to both regions. For the first time I heard Wallonian politicians talking about content of state reform, something they had refused to do over the previous 3 years (leading to such a clear victory of Flemish nationalists, so they strategy had hit them in the face).   Yet their max give-in never reached the minimum of the Flemish nationalists and by the end of August there was a clear rupture in the mutual trust.  Leaks afterwards revealed that NVA didn't believe anymore in a solution with PS and PS didn't trust NVA anymore since they had broken some promises. Both PS and NVA lead a formation attempt in vain.

Our poor king assigned some mediators to win time and calm down the emotions again. Some more documents were written with suggested approaches but they were killed by the other parties.    

At the end of October, Van De Lanotte, an experience politician from the SPA (the Flemish socialists....seemed like a good cross-over between NVA & PS) was assigned to clear out the disputes and try to document a ground to continue the negotiations. He took a torough & discrete approach visiting all parties, national bank, budgettary specialists etc.   Surprisingly enough he never gathered the 7 "negotiating" political parties around the table one single time so basically they never met anymore together.  Yet he kept interviewing everybody and when his mother got ill and he had to take a break from his task, all newspapers were full of this non-progress. 
By the start of 2011 he produced a 60 page proposal on state reform , possible budget structures etc... None of the political parties was enthousiastic which seems to me that it met a decent compromis that hurt everybody a little.   The Wallonian political parties wanted to continue negotiating but didn't agree with everything,  NVA and the Flemish Christian Democrats didn't find this document could be a basis of negotiations.  Back to scratch. 

The king decided to turn things upside down and assigned a Wallonian liberal to lead the negotiations, a political party that had not been involved until now.  Maybe he could lead our country to an alternative majority and could his right-wing approach appeal the Flemish NVA.    But after 4 weeks he obtained no result whatsover and the distrust to all negotiators had only grown and grown.

In the mean time we broke the Iraq world record of country without a government.  Our population had finally lost some of its apathy and had celebrated this record in some absurd way. What can I say, we're the country of Magritte and Delvaux.

Over the last weeks yet another negotiator has stepped in but I hardly hear anything of his progress in the press. We only learn of federations between Brussels and Wallonia being made and Flanders now accusing them of preparing the break-up of Belgium. How ironic is that? Or other emotional discussions being fought in front of the camera's.  But which content is currently on the negotiation table if any, we don't know anymore.

We've learned recently that in fact we did not break the world record of governmentless country last winter just yet as all of a sudden it became clear that Cambodja had been almost a year without government and is still holding that current record.  Well....I am fairly certain we'll break that world record yet once again on June 1.   Each day a solution seems further and further away and new elections won't help either as the 2 major players are only going to grow bigger and bigger.

And so we have a resigning government who has been resigning for a longer time than it's been officially in power.  A resigning government that officially can only manage ongoing affairs but not take new decisions...yet out of necessity they've submitted the budget for the coming years to Europe, well, ...because we had to submit a budget.    And they've prolonged some economic measures eternally since the new govnerment, when it comes, can always cancel these immediately.  And this country with only a resigning federal government managed to engage itself in the Libyan war without any problem . More specifically the parliament voted pro unanimously since there was no opposition to give the parties in power a hard time.   And we've been praised as the most efficient and effective presidency of the European Union in the 2nd half of 2010 since our "resigning" ministers could have full focus on the European matter and had the time to prepare well.

Ha, and so we might pretend in some absurd way that we are more effective without official government than with. Don't let you get fooled though, we're not doing well.


Korie said…
Maybe you guys could put Prince Laurent in charge?
(don't hit me!)
Brian Miller said…
nice here in the US we are flirting with joining you as we are about bankrupt as a country...

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