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Verhofstadt damaged by Commission failure

Published on 21/06/2004

21 June 2004

BRUSSELS – Speculation was mounting in Belgium on Monday as to whether Guy Verhofstadt could continue as the country’s Prime Minister after the United Kingdom blocked moves to appoint him as the next European Commission President.

Several newspapers argued that this latest set back could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Verhofstadt’s premiership.

“Is Guy Verhofstadt finished?” asked Le Soir bluntly.

Before the Commission debacle, Verhofstadt’s position as head of the government was already looking decidedly shaky.

His Flemish Liberal Democrat (VLD) party was humiliated in the 13 June regional elections in Flanders, when it was roundly beaten by the far-right Vlaams Blok.

Flemish voters are also furious with Verhofstadt for steering through parliament a law that gives non-EU expats the right to vote in Belgium’s local elections.

Verhofstadt always made it clear that he and his party were opposed to the legislation, but that cut little ice with his core voters.

La Libre Belgique said that the humiliation over the Commission job marked the low point in an, “annus horribilis” for the Belgian Prime Minister.

“He will need a serious shot of courage to get involved in Belgian politics again,” the newspaper added.

Both Le Soir and La Libre Belgique agreed that whatever happens, Verhofstadt’s troubles are far from over and that the coming months are likely to be some of the toughest of his political life.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news