The attempt of Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt to start a new cabinet after 191 days without government ran into trouble on Tuesday. A power struggle between the two main Walloon parties, the socialists and the liberals, made compromise almost impossible.
Verhofstadt met the four party presidents of the Flemish Christian democrats and liberals and of the Walloon socialists and liberals on Monday evening. After two hours of discussions it was obvious that one knot still had to be untied. The Walloon socialists demanded that the Walloon Christian democrats should be taken into the new government, officially to make the Walloon postion stronger. The Walloon liberal MR refused precisely a coalition with both the socialists and Christian democrats, fearing it would be marginalized in what it called a ‘left-wing block’.
On Tuesday morning the president of the Walloon Christian democrat CDH, Joëlle Milquet, went to see Verhofstadt. He seems to have informed her about the veto of the MR. Milquet immediately called together the leading figures of her party. Together they decided ‘that it would be more sane to stay out’. Milquet added that she was still prepared to support the new government on some issues, and remained ready to participate in it at some later moment.
` When Milquet and the CDH took their decision, the president of the Walloon socialist PS was still explaining on the radio that he definitely wanted the CDH to be part of the new government. In mid-afternoon the PS repeated this position in an official statement. It asked Verhofstadt ‘to make a last try to put the CDH into the government’. Otherwise ‘the PS would not be able to give its confidence to the new cabinet.’