Friday, 6 June 2014

The remains of a nation

One day after Wallonia and Brussels, Mr. Bart De Wever, still the federal 'informateur', announced that the Flemish nationalists and Flemish christian democrats would try to form a new regional government in Flanders. It is now most likely that it will be the regional coalitions that will form a federal government later. The devolution process in Belgium has made a new big leap forward.

At a new conference at 5 pm and after a night of negotiations Mr. De Wever (picture, in the middle) and the outgoing chief-minister of the Flemish region, Mr. Kris Peeters (picture, right) announced that their respective parties, NVA and CDV, would try to form the new regional government in the next few weeks. Like in the south of the country, it is mostly the outgoing coalition that is continued, albeit in Flanders without the socialdemocratic SPA.

Ms. Gwendolyn Rutten, the president of the Flemish liberal VLD - who will remain in opposition on the regional level as they are since 2009 - immediately suggested that her party in that case will no longer be interested to be a part of the next federal government. Rutten had advocated strong cooperation between the different levels during the election campaign.

But as in Wallonia, and certainly after the events of Thursday, the democratic logic pointed to a coalition of the two largest parties in Flanders. The democratic impuls of the regional elections has proved to be stronger than the political intention to soften the big electoral differences in the north and the south by imposing the same coalitions on all levels. The latter was a major feature of the last institutional reform of 2013.

In a sense the next federal government will now most probably be made to the image of the regional governments, bringing together a centre-right coalition in Flanders and a centre left in Wallonia. It is doubtful such a coalition could concentrate on much needed economic reforms in the next five years.

If anything, the events of the last days have shown that a new institutional reform is inevitable, as the process of devolution has in practice gone far faster than many expected. Mr. De Wever will report on his attempts to form a new federal government at the Royal Palace on Tuesday. It is far from sure that he will be able to detect by then a clearcut way to continue for king Philipp.

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