Expatica news

What next, Mr Leterme?

8 November 2007

BRUSSELS – After Flemish lawmakers went ahead and voted to split the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constituency everybody is now wondering how the government formation process can be salvaged.

On Wednesday the Belgian Parliament’s Home Affairs select committee approved the splitting of the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde constituency. All but one of the Flemish lawmakers present voted in favour of the split.

Francophone lawmakers walked out.

The vote went ahead against the wishes of the Francophone parties that were negotiating a new government with Prime Minister designate Yves Leterme (Christian democrat).

The Francophone liberals initially said they would pull out of the talks if the vote went ahead, but later changed their mind and said that an emergency government should be formed to address social economic issues.

Most observers see no alternative to the liberal/Christian democrat administration that is now being put on the rails, but Flemish parties are unlikely to accept a government that does not address state reform issues.

Government formation has meanwhile been suspended.

Emergency cabinet???
The Flemish Christian democrats have rejected out of hand the idea of setting up an emergency cabinet with a limited social economic programme. This is a view shared by the party’s Flemish nationalist alliance partner.

The Flemish liberals want to continue the talks with the centre-right parties already involved.

Flemish liberal Patrick Dewael said his party was now waiting for an initiative from Mr Leterme, but he finds it hard to imagine that the appetite for state reforms will have disappeared.

Mr Dewael added that if you want to pursue effective economic policies, the regions need to be in the vanguard of such efforts.

In consequence, it would be impossible to ignore further state reforms.

The prospective Francophone government parties want calm to return after yesterday’s uproar.

They also believe there is a greater need for mutual respect.

“Condemned to succeed”
The Francophones are irritated that the vote went ahead on Wednesday, but nobody is prepared to bury Mr Leterme’s formation efforts, if only because there does not seem to be any alternative.

Mr Dewael added that the election result meant that the centre-right parties were condemned to succeed.

Belgium to end? 
A survey carried out by the Francophone broadcaster RTBF and the Francophone daily Le Soir reveals that 43 percent of the people of Brussels and Wallonia believe that Belgium will be dismantled.

Over half of those quizzed thought that the prospective liberal/Christian democrat administration is a hopeless affair.

Two-thirds of those polled believe that Flemings are not really too bothered about the splitting of the highly symbolic BHV constituency.

“Conflict of Interest”
All Francophone parties intend to invoke the conflict of interest procedure following the vote on BHV. The procedure introduces a cooling off period.

It means that the parliamentary passage of the legislation will be delayed by 60 days.

Any Belgian Parliament can invoke the procedure.

The Francophone Community Parliament intends to do so on Friday.

Similar motions will be passed in the other assemblies where Francophones are in the majority.

If supported by three-quarters of lawmakers, the “conflict of interest” cooling off periods kicks in.

[Copyright Flanders news 2007]

Subject: Belgian news