Sunday, 29 June 2014

Battle of wills



The new ‘informateur’ to form a federal government, Mr. Charles Michel, will see Mr. Bart De Wever, the Flemish nationalist leader, on Monday morning, after he had a 90 minutes long talk with Elio di Rupo, the outgoing prime minister and leader of the French-speaking socialists (PS), on Saturday (picture). Mr. Michel, who received the vaguely defined mission to ‘explore possible formula’s to form a government’, seems to want to take his time.
Mr. Charles Michel is 38, leader of the French-speaking liberals (MR), mayor of the small town of Wavre to the south of Brussels, and son of the former European Commissioner Louis Michel. King Philip appointed him as new ‘informateur’ on Friday noon, after the resignation of Mr. Bart De Wever on Wednesday. Contrary to his father Albert – who in previous crises showed creativity in finding new names for each mission to form a government (pre-informateur, eclaireur, conciliateur ..) – the new King Philip seems to stick to the classic terminology of ‘informateur’ and ‘formateur’.
After seeing the unions and the business associations, Mr. Michel had a long talk with Mr. Elio di Rupo on Saturday. The ‘informateur’ insisted  that this was a consultation of the outgoing prime minister. The president of the Parti Socialiste, the same Mr. di Rupo, he will consult on Monday, after having seen the leader of the largest party in the new parliament, Mr. De Wever. Relations between Michel and di Rupo have been tense since the latter excluded the former from the negotiations for regional governments in early June.
Very few has been heard the last weeks about the attempts to form the regional governments. Most observers nevertheless expect some final rounds of negotiations towards the end of the week, or early next week. In Flanders NVA and CDV are negotiating, in Wallonia PS and CDH and in Brussels PS, CDH and FDF, together with the smaller Flemish parties (liberals, socialists and Christian democrats).
The next federal government remains a big question mark. All formula’s seem to lie on the table, and Mr. Michel is clearly taking his time. After the failure of Mr. De Wever to form a centre-right government of his own party, the two Christian democratic parties and the MR, a cooling off period seems indeed necessary. The French-speaking liberals, who are centre-right in mostly centre-left Wallonia, are well-positioned to keep on speaking terms with everybody.
But the big issue remains the veto the biggest party in each community is putting up against the other one. Spokesman of PS, CDH and FDF repeated on Sunday they would not enter a government with the Flemish nationalists of NVA. The latter on the other hand has been trying to form explicitly a government without the PS. And all the smaller parties are under pressure from the leading one in their community  not to ‘betray the interests of their community’.
It could take a long time – or even eternity – before the logic conclusion that the two dominant parties are doomed to rule the country together, will be reached.  

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