Sunday, 13 February 2011

Reshuffling the cards

After ten days in charge the outgoing Finance minister Didier Reynders is exploring new coalition formula’s in the endless negotiations for a Belgian government. The big news is that up to now the idea has not been rejected by anybody.
Reynders came out of his ministry on Saturday noon (picture: belga) to make a statement to the press shortly after he had met the last of the party delegations. The outgoing Finance minister and French-speaking liberal was appointed ‘informateur’ by King Albert on the 2nd of October.
‘There is a general will to negotiate’ he said, ‘and many consider the possibility of taking the parties of the outgoing coalition. As I see that all the Flemish parties want the nationalist NVA also to participate, we should add them to the coalition. But I don’t want to show any preference for or against any other possible coalition partners.’
The caretaker government of Yves Leterme, that came into power at the end of 2007, is a coalition of both liberal and Christian democratic parties, and of the Parti Socialiste. The Flemish nationalists were part of this government until 21 September 2008, when the prime minister and his party decided that the stalled institutional negotiations had less relevance than the bank crisis that had broken out after the collapse of Lehman Brothers six days earlier.
The outgoing coalition still commands 83 seats in the Lower House, eight more than the simple majority of 75. With the 27 seats of NVA it would have 110 seats, much more than the two third majority needed to change the constitution. But in his statement Reynders left open the possibility that other parties could participate.
For the last eight months the government negotiations were held between the seven parties that are also present in the regional governments that came into power in 2009. The liberals are not a part of these. By bringing them in, Reynders is opting for a different majority on the federal level, which could complicate the tasks of institutional reform and drastic budget cuts.
The informateur indicated that he was ready to give way as leader of the negotiations to Elio di Rupo, the president of the French-speaking socialists, ‘who has the support of all French-speaking parties’. And he said that he would start discussions about economic matters as the employment policy and the budget cuts ‘as these are very much linked to the problems of institutional reform’.
The latter is not strictly spoken a part of the mission that he received from King Albert ten days ago. It is also a departure from the fact that negotiations were up to now only concentrated on institutional matters. Wednesday Reynders will go to the palace to report about what he obtained. It’s likely that his mission will be extended

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