916 days to go

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After 540 days of political impasse, the six parties that will form the Di Rupo administration have given the green light for government participation at their respective party congresses. If the new team manages to run the full course, they still have 2 years, 6 months and 3 days – or a total of 916 days to win the voters’ confidence before the concurrent federal, Flemish and European elections on 8 June 2014. The only remaining hurdle to be cleared is the division of ministerial portfolios, which was discussed by the six party presidents last night. Various sources suggest that Di Rupo will propose a government with 8 French-speaking and 7 Flemish ministers, with the PS obtaining 3 ministers in addition to the Premier and Parliamentary Chairman, and the MR and CdH each being given 2. Furthermore it seems Di Rupo plans to give the MR party 3 ministers and CdH only 1 plus a state secretary. On the Flemish side, the CD&V is said to receive 3 ministerial posts and a Senate Chairman, with Open VLD and SP.A receiving 2 ministers and 1 state secretary. That puts the total at 15 ministers and 3 state secretaries: 9 French-speaking and 9 Flemish. In response to a request from the Flemish parties, Di Rupo embarked on a round of bilateral talks later in the evening. Last night’s talks did not only cover the topic of government member allocations, but also about the portfolios tob e distributed. If a number of key figures from the Leterme administration were kept their portfolios could create the impression that the new team is not that set on introducing new leadership. The fact that Didier Reynders MR will probably keep the Finance portfolio has already caused some resentment. Paul Magnette seems a likely contender for Di Rupo’s role as PS president, but earlier today a final agreement on the various portfolios had not yet been reached. Some negotiators suggested that the Di Rupo administration will only be sworn in on Tuesday. This will be followed by the vote of confidence in Parliament on Thursday; just in time for the crucial European summit. Meanwhile the electorate seems highly sceptical. An opinion poll by the newspaper De Morgen suggests that the Flemish parties in office CD&V, SP.A and Open VLD would only get 42.3% of the vote, which is 4% down from the June 2010 elections. Opposition party N-VA has meanwhile upped its votes to 35%.

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