Nerves taut in anticipation of the September declaration
This afternoon the minister-president of the Flemish government, Kris Peeters CD&V, will present his September declaration to the Flemish parliament, explaining the policy in the new parliamentary year. This morning the Flemish cabinet met for a final time in order to tackle the biggest stumbling blocks and to fine tune the political balances in the state of the union address. Peeters will also present the 2013 budget, which has undoubtedly become a difficult subject as between 500 million and a billion euros in cuts will have to be implemented. This will likewise be an exercise in the fine art of balancing, as none of the three majority parties the CD&V, N-VA and SP.A may have the feeling that their own ministers will have to sacrifice more than others. Consequently a tenable agreement will only be possible if the budget of each coalition partner suffers to a proportionally equal extent. An additional difficulty is the fact that expenditure is constantly rising while income is shrinking, as the slumping economy has checked the biggest source of income – the allocations by the federal government. With municipal elections set to be held within three weeks, nerves are taut amongst all concerned. The image of a government that doesn't fit together well fills Peeters with aversion, so het wants to avoid it at all costs. That is why last week he ordered all the negotiating ministers to communicate as little as possible on the budget. The fear of starting a political riot before his team is even properly out of the starting blocks would have been fatal in terms of both perception and general atmosphere. Three weeks before the municipal elections, the Flemish minister-president hopes to score well and cash in on his personal popularity on behalf of his party. In this way he hopes to be of service to the CD&V, which is fighting with the N-VA for the title of 'the people’s party'. The question remains whether Peeters will be able to solve, in the time left, the riddle he is unavoidably faced with – how to get his team to shine while also extracting his party from the electoral swamp and driving back the N-VA.