After twelve days the new Royal negotiator, Johan Vande Lanotte, announced on Tuesday evening that he was making slow progress in his efforts to form a new government in Belgium. As he indicated that he would need still at least ten days, it is now certain that no new elections can take place before the middle of January 2011.
Vande Lanotte (picture from belga news agency), a former president of the Flemish socialist party, reported about his mission at 4 pm on Tuesday. He left King Albert in the palace of Laeken one and a half hour later. Shortly after 6 pm he read a brief statement to the press in the Senate. It was the first time he broke the self-imposed radio-silence that he had promised when he was appointed on the 21st of September.
‘The way towards an agreement is still long and uncertain’, he said, ‘but part of the way to restore confidence has been traveled’. Vande Lanotte will see each of the seven party-presidents around the negotiating table before the weekend. After that he hopes to receive an advice about the numbers of the new Finance Law from experts of the National Bank and the Bureau du Plan.
The royal mediator announced again that he would remain extremely discreet in his comments in the next weeks. He indicated that he will continue at least until the 12th of November, which will be a moment to evaluate the situation. This means that – given that the organization of new elections takes at least 40 days – no new elections will take place before Christmas, which in practice means that it is impossible to hold these before the 16th of January. To reach the latter date, parliament should be dissolved on the 7th of December at the latest.
In the first days of Vande Lanottes mission several leaders of the Flemish Nationalists – including their president Bart De Wever - indicated that this round of negotiations was, as far as they were concerned, the last before new elections. Since then Vande Lanotte has brought twice the main rivals, De Wever and his French-speaking socialist counterpart Elio di Rupo, together around a good meal. No other comments have been heard.