Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Knock Knock who's there?

King Albert II of Belgium accepted on Tuesday evening the resignation of the two mediators he had appointed one month ago to find a way out of the stalled negotiations for a new Belgian government. It is now high probable that he will sent out the leader of the Flemish nationalists, Bart De Wever, who broke down the latest round of talks.

André Flahaut, the president of the Lower House, and Danny Pieters, his colleague of the Senate (both on the picture), acknowledged on a press conference at 7 pm Tuesday that during four weeks they had not succeeded in bringing the seven parties that had negotiated for a new government in the summer back together around the table. But they nevertheless had booked some progress on the issues in discussion, they said.

Flahaut and Pieters had shortly before handed in their resignation to king Albert at the royal palace in Laeken. They did so one day after Bart De Wever, the leader of the Flemish nationalist, had asked during a press conference to start the negotiations back from scratch as they had ended in deadlock.

The latter was denied by the three French-speaking parties who had participated in the negotiations. They reacted furiously on De Wevers decision, claiming that he was not capable of making agreements. The three other Flemish parties also reacted negatively, although less vehemently. Didier Reynders, the leader of the French-speaking liberals, who stayed out of the negotiations, immediately again stressed that he was ready to discuss far-reaching fiscal autonomy for the regions, the main demand of the NVA

During his press conference De Wever indicated he was ready to support the outgoing government in parliament if urgent measures had to be taken the coming months. In a press statement from the royal palace, King Albert asked outgoing prime minister Yves Leterme on Tuesday afternoon to take all measures needed to keep the economy in good shape. Leterme has repeatedly said that he does not see the necessity yet to give the caretaking government extra powers. It still has a majority of seats in parliament at his disposal and if necessary it still can go for a vote on specific issues, he said Tuesday.

King Albert will start a new round of consultations of the political parties on Wednesday afternoon, as this morning he has to see some Asian leaders who are on visit in Brussels for the summit with the EU. Many commentators now think that Bart De Wever will be sent out on a new mission, as it was him who ended the latest round of talks.

Twice in his press conference on Monday De Wever said that he ‘was ready to take up responsabilities’. That is the almost ritual phrase in Belgian politics to say that he wants to become the next prime minister. Nothing is more normal than that ambition for the leader of the largest political party in the country, which the Flemish nationalists are for the first time since the  elections of June.

But for Flemish nationalists it has in a symbolic way never been evident to take up the lead  of the more or less despised nation of Belgium. Besides they would have to make larger concessions to the French-speaking parties, the price most Flemish prime ministers always had (and were ready) to pay to obtain the keys of their new office at the center of Belgian political power.

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