Friday, 21 September 2007

The sound of silence

I hope Mr. Van Rompuy overthere is bringing me some good news at last (King Albert II, on the right)

The moment of truth is nearing for royal scout Herman Van Rompuy. But probably not yet for Belgium.

Monday it will be exactly one month since Herman Van Rompuy’s predecessor Yves Leterme abandoned his attempt to form a new Belgian government. Monday the royal scout will report for the fourth time to King Albert since he started his mission on August the 29th.

As in the previous weeks Van Rompuy kept an almost complete radio-silence on his discussions with party leaders. What filtered out was that he continued to work on an orange-blue coalition, that he negotiated with Flemish an Walloon delegations apart, and that his efforts still centered on removing the stumbling blocks of nationalistic antagonism.

The only intriguing news this week was a press leak that indicated that Van Rompuy was trying to evacuate the demand, from his own party, for a constitutional reform. For such a reform the new government needs a two third majority in parliament, which the orange-blue coalition would not have.

The scout seems to have tested the idea of a commission of elder statesman from all major parties that would have to make proposals for such a reform. The new government would then start without waiting for the conclusions of the commission. The fact that the proposal was immediately leaked indicated that at least one of the parties was eager to kill it.

Van Rompuy is certainly aware of the fact that his time is running out. His spokesman – a sparingly speaking spokesmen - did not deny that negotiations would go on this weekend. That is usually a sign that the next days could be crucial and will decide if the scout fails of succeeds.

If it is failure that awaits Van Rompuy, Belgium probably still will not break-up immediately. The country itself is remarkably quiet about the crisis. For the moment only foreign correspondents and opinion polls - in Belgium notoriously unreliable - see a steadily rising fever all over the nation.

Among the Belgians themselves many people think that all this seems to prove that modern society can do for many weeks without a proper government. Economists praise the euro, and tell the media that twenty years ago the Belgian franc would already have suffered severe downwards pressures from the currency markets. That big stick to hurry up the politicians is no longer available.

After Van Rompuy the king can still send the Walloon socialist leader Elio di Rupo out to search for an alternative for the orange-blue coalition. If he fails, the conclusion will inevitably be that no government can be set up. But even then, and except for a major incident, the mood in the country will probably not be that heated that leaders of the major Flemish parties will start to demand independence for Flanders. The emergency-brake would then be to call the people back to the polls, with the future of Belgium as the one and only issue.

No comments:

Post a Comment