King Albert II of Belgium on Wednesday afternoon appointed Wouter Beke, the 36-year old president of the Flemish Christian democratic party, as the new royal negotiator. He will try to negotiate a way out of the impasse of the Belgian government negotiations that failed to produce a new government for 263 days.
Beke succeeds to Didier Reynders who for a month led the negotiations but did not achieve any progress. He handed in his resignation on Tuesday. It was hoped that Reynders would show that he was capable of making a compromise on Brussels, as his party has an important wing of Brussels nationalists. But he did not. Besides, as an old-time rival of Elio di Rupo, the leader of the French-speaking socialists, he did not receive much room for manoeuvring.
Di Rupo has been insisting for some weeks that it was up to the Flemish Christian democrats to make a breakthrough, as they are the old power-brokers of Belgian politics and since last elections have been close allies of the Flemish nationalist. Di Rupo did not want the Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever to take up the command. After a full day of much confusion Tuesday De Wever accepted Wouter Beke as a compromise figure.
In a first short statement after his nomination the new negotiator indicated that he would discuss with nine parties (the seven ones who have been negotiating since July last year, plus the two liberal parties). This is the scenario di Rupo prefers. De Wever insists that first a choice should be made to obtain no more parties than are needed to create a two third majority.
As there is not even an agreement on what coalition to form, it is clear the odds are against the young Wouter Beke. ‘Do not expect miracles’, Kris Peeters, the chief-minister of the Flemish region and according to many the real strongman of the Christian democrats, commented Wednesday, shortly after the King’s decision.