Sunday, 27 April 2014

Into the next crisis?


Two years and almost five months after I posted my last contribution on this blog, it is time to take up the story again. The reason is, quite obviously, that Belgium seems to head towards its next crisis. In four weeks general elections will take place, for the regional, national and European parliaments. All opinion polls point to a decisive victory of the Flemish nationalists (NVA) of Bart De Wever, with an even bigger score than the one in 2010. In French-speaking Belgium the socialists of prime minister Elio di Rupo, who were by far the only winner in that part of the country in 2010, are heading for a strong loss, with the extreme left and maoist Parti des Travailleurs belges gaining up to 8 % of the votes. If these results, that have been consistent throughout all polls of the last months, are to be confirmed on the 25th of May, this would mean that the attempt of di Rupo to sit out the huge wave of Flemish nationalism by making concessions in a coalition with the three traditional Flemish parties (Christian democrats, liberals and social-democrats, all now in the polls on a level not even halfway that of the NVA) has failed.

Of course polls have been unreliable in Belgium before, and four weeks are an eternity in politics, certainly during weeks of electoral campaigns. But it nevertheless seems useful to start this blog again for the audience abroad that was so interested in the previous years, in 2007 and 2010-2011. Belgium will inevitably become again a focal point of international media, in a year in Europe wherein separatists movements are coming to their apogee in Scotland and Catalonia in referenda on independence that will take place in both regions after the summer.  

Like in 2010 I will try to catch up with events since the last note on this blog in December 2011 with short background briefings.  Reading back some of the notes published since 2007, I see that most of them are still very useful today and very few things in the underlying current have changed. The biggest difference will be in the pictures of Mr. De Wever, who lost 50 kg of weight in a fierce slimming-course just before he became the mayor of Antwerp, the largest city in Flanders, in 2012. It makes him fitter than ever to take over the whole country, or only that part that he and his nationalist fellow-travellers cherish so much.


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