Friday, 14 September 2007

Orchestrated manoeuvres (2)

Royal scout Herman Van Rompuy was Friday once more invited to push his own party leader Yves Leterme gradually aside. But the latter received unexpected help from an adversary.

Flemish and Walloon newspapers Friday brought the story that both Walloon parties and the Flemish Liberal VLD had Thursday proposed to Van Rompuy that he restarted the negotiations on social-economic issues, as the discussions on the nationalistic issues are getting nowhere.

This rather strange idea – as Van Rompuy does not advance on the heart of the matter, give him new competences on other subjects – was rapidly defused by Jo Vandeurzen, the party president of the Flemish Christian democrats (CD&V). He did not object explicitly, but reminded everybody that Van Rompuy’s task was in the first place to break the deadlock in the negotiations. He added that CD&V would not enter a government where Yves Leterme is not a prime minister.

The proposal to enlarge Van Rompuy’s task was largely seen as another manoeuvre to bring some damage on the position of Leterme, especially from the Walloon parties. On Friday noon the besieged former formateur received unexpected help from the minister of Foreign Affairs in the outgoing government, the Flemish liberal Karel De Gucht (picture belga). He warned the Walloon parties ‘that they should not think that they have a kind of veto-right on Flemish candidates for the function of prime minister’. Asked why he came to the rescue of Leterme, who is a political adversary, De Gucht said: ‘I want to fight him next election as a rival, not as a martyr.’

This new round of Belgian politique politicienne learned in the first place that Van Rompuy’s attempts to bring Flemish and Walloons around the table to discuss their conflict, has got nowhere after more than two weeks.

And again a leading French Christian democrat threw some light on what may be the deeper cause. Jean-Jacques Viseur, a former minister of Finance who is now mayor of Wallony’s largest city Charleroi, said in a speech on Friday that ‘it is not only imprudent, but plainly wrong to keep a great Walloon party or the regional governments out of the negotiations’. He clearly meant the Walloon socialists of the PS.

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