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Insula Dei
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« on: January 21, 2011, 05:28:58 pm »
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I thought I'd take my responsibility and create this thread about everything related to the current Belgian political crisis as well as random stuff I feel like writing about.

So where are things at in the formation of the Belgian government?
Right now negotiations are underway between 7 different parties: 4 Flemish parties and 3 Walloon/Francophone parties. The parties are the following:

-N-VA: or New-Flemish Alliance, the famed party of Bart De Wever and probably the greatest obstacle to a quick formation. The N-VA has its roots in the old Nationalist VU (People's Union) which was actually a pretty good party and which was rather on the left on social issues for most of its existence. The N-VA has evolved from the so-called 'Oranjehofgroep' within the VU, which were the hardliners that even back then weren't too keen on any dealmaking. Between 2003 and 2008 the N-VA was in a cartel with the Christian-Democratic CD&V, after they failed, with the exception of a seat in West Flanders, home province of their leader at the time, Geert Bourgeois, to get into parliament on their own in 2003. Right now they represent 27.8% of Flemish voters in the Chamber of Deputies and is, of course, a hard-line nationalist and separatist party which is also both fiscally and socially conservative.

-CD&V or 'Christian-Democratic & Flemish' (yeah, they don't have a substantive in their name) is the old Christian-Democratic Party CVP (Christian People's Party), which dominated Belgian political landscape for most of the 20th century. When Guy Verhofstadt, took power in 1999, he ended a period of 41 years of Christian-Democratic Prime Ministers, with only one interruption of 3-4 months back in the '80s. Shellshocked after being thrown out of government the CVP underwent a metamorphosis to become the much more Flemish CD&V at the infamous Vilvoorde Congress. It was CD&V leader Yves Leterme who precede over the disastrous 2007-2008 formation and failed to get the issues we are faced by now solved. The CD|V represents a meagre 17.3% of Flemish voters and combines a Flemish Confederalist doscourse with being absolutely scared out of its wit by the N-VA which has consumed most of its electoral base. Current PM Leterme is probably at the end of his career and will probably be replaced by current Flemish Minister-President Kris Peeters, which would mark a shift to  the right. Both gentlemen felt too good to actually get involved in the last election or to, you know, get elected to be the leader of their own party and were at those occasions replaced by MEP Marianne Thyssen and current party president Wouter Beke.

-SP.a or 'Socialist Party - different' (yeah, I know, it's a funny name) is the Flemish Social-Democratic Party, which has been declining ever since the eighties and the mythical European Elections of 1984 when the late Karel van Miert led them to become for the first and the last time the largest political party in Flanders, lived trough a small rennaissance under Steve Stevaert and his 'cozy socialism', but failed to overtake the Liberals in 2003. Having been a junior Coalition partner in the now reviled 1999-2007 period , the party was utterly torn appart in 2007 and only managed the status quo in 2009 and 2010. The party has the vicorious Walloon PS to thank for its place at the negotiations table and is probably together with the ecologists the party which wants a deal more than the other Flemish Parties, though recently some of the more Third Way elements within it have been touting a technocratic edition of confederalism as a potential model for the future. The SP.A, which is led by Caroline Gennez, represents 14.6% of voters and has a centre-left outlook on social and fiscal issues.

-Groen!: Yes, the exclamation mark is part of their name, is the Flemish ecologist party. It is traditionally less strong than its big brother in Wallonia for reasons I might elaborate on later, but has been gaining support steadily over the last couple of years. After getting a taste from what Governing is all about and an eclatant 1999 victory at the polls they were crushed and thrown out of parliament in 2003. They seem to be the party of choice for people who don't like the N-VA, but still are at the table to negotiate as the ecologist movement is needed to assure a 2/3rds majority for any major Institutional Reform that would be decided upon. They represent 6.9% of the voters, are the least Flemish of all Flemish parties and, as a consequence, have consistently proven to be most immune of all parties to the N-VA tsunami of 2010, making them one of the stronger positioned negotiators. Their leader is complete newbie Wouter van Besien, who's doing an okay job.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2011, 05:31:58 pm »
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I'll do Wallonia and the political opposition in the making tomorrow or the day after. I am also looking forward to any questions you people may have.

In the mean time: here is the pseudo-offical site with election results 1848-2007 and links to the 2009 regionals results:

http://www.ibzdgip.fgov.be/result/fr/main.html

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« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2011, 05:46:26 pm »
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That site is made of win. It would be nice if France stopped being a third-world country and put a full compilation of elections since 1848 online.
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2011, 12:17:19 am »
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I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge of Belgium pretty much ends at chocolate, waffles, and french fries.

Still, those are three things to be proud of! Tongue
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2011, 01:51:19 pm »
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So, the Wallonian parties who are supposed to be in the next government:

-PS, or Parti Socialiste is the traditionally dominant party of Wallonian politics. While it used to be horribly corrupt, it has underwent a clean-up operation in recent years under the leasership of Elio Di Rupo, a son of Italian immigrants and openly homosexual. The party received some electoral beatings troughout the last decades, untill it became Wallonia's 2nd party in 2007 after the victorious MR. In 2010 the party ressurected from its ashes and won a good 37.6% of the vote and is likely to see Di Rupo become PM, should a government be formed in the forseeable future. The party used to be more anti-Flemish nationalism than the average Wallonian party, but seems to have passed that title on to the CDh and (mainly) MR-FDF.

-cdH or Democratic Humanist Centre has evolved from the old Christian-Democratic PSC minus several right-wing break-away factions (most notably the MCC, which now is one of the three core groups in the MR). The party as a result is probably one of the more left-wing European Christian-Democratic parties. Its leader, Joelle Milquet, became famous during the 2007 formation/fiasco as 'Madame Non', as the N-VA and the CD&V privately blamed her for the utter failure of the negotiations. The party disappointed at the polls in 2007 and lost some ground in 2010, but as they managed to enter the regional anti-MR coalition in Wallonia in 2009, they were also invited to have a seat at the table this time round despite winning only some 14.6% of the Wallonian vote.

-Ecolo: the francophone Greens, who did tremendously well in 1999, were ravaged in 2003 and have been recovering ever since. The party  form a very thight alliance with Groen!, which makes the ecologists  possibly vital players. They have some  very charismatic politicians (Jean-Marc Nollet, Jean-Michel Javaux) and are seemingly always on the verge of a huge break, only to fade into the background when the campaign begins. They did so in 2007  they did so in 2010, and they did so (to a lesser extent,) in the 2009 regionals. They have some 12.3% of the Wallonian vote behind them.
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« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2011, 05:22:29 pm »
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That site is made of win. It would be nice if France stopped being a third-world country and put a full compilation of elections since 1848 online.

Well, the results prior to 1894 or so are very fragmentary.
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Insula Dei
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« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2011, 02:37:23 pm »
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While I'm too lazy to expand on the other parties right now, I might give you all an update on the ongoing crisis. On the 5th of January royal intermediator Johan Vandelanotte (SP.a) presented a possible agreement which could form the basis for a last round of negotiations and which he had been working on since November. While his own party, the greens and the francophone parties were quick to praise the text and give it a 'yes', the N-VA and the CD&V (surprise! surprise!) thought it to be an unsatisfactory start for negotiations and gave it a 'no'. Following that a triumvirate consisting from Vandelanotte, Di Rupo and De Wever to try and work things out, spent the last two weeks negotiating with one another and with several other party leaders. Today that ended as well as Vandelanotte resigned. The consensus now seems to be there won't be a government with these 7 parties. There are several other options:

-A government with the 2 largest factions of each half of the country: PS, MR, N-VA, CD&V
+
The N-VA has been trying to get the MR in on the negotiations since September
There won't be any issues concerning the legitimacy of the parties involved as major players
-
Why would the PS want to negotizate with three rightwing parties?
No 2/3rds majority
The MR would bring the radical FDF to the table
PS hates MR

-Just add the liberals to the mix: PS, MR, ecolo, cdH, SP.a, Groen!, CD&V, N-VA, OpenVLD
+
Nobody has anything to lose when everybody ese is on board as well
The Flemish right gets a more rightwing government
-
A nine party government isn't very workable
the FDF thing
PS hates MR

-A government with the liberals, but without N-VA: PS, ecolo, MR, cdH, SP.a, CD&V, Groen!, OpenVLD (so basically a classical tripartite)
+
No obstructionism from the N-VA
Everybody would be supermotivated to not screw up and give the next election to the N-VA
-
The N-VA would kill everybody at the next election
The N-VA is the largest party. What happened to democracy?
PS hates MR
CD&V would rather swallow its own feces than risk to lose any voters to the N-VA and isn't much less obstructionist anyway

-Another Purple-Green government: PS, MR, ecolo, SP.a, Groen!, OpenVLD
+
No major nationalists at the table
I could see these parties take the time to spend more than a couple of minutes on working out an economic plan
-
See all of the above
No 2/3rd majority
Ridiculously few Flemish MP's
Just so you know: PS hates MR

-New elections
+
What else could be done?
Just let the voter fix it
-
Would just have the same parties winning with even more votes to go by recent polls
Political credibility dies completely
Whoever triggers this is going to get the 'joker' for more than 8 months of messing up

For the record: I only can see the purple-green cabinet function more or less normally and have them as my preferred option. In all honesty I'd predict that they'll try the first option and then have some early elections in May/June which won't solve anything.
« Last Edit: January 27, 2011, 02:13:46 pm by Taoisigh »Logged

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« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2011, 04:16:25 pm »
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If the last round of negociations fail will there be new elections? In that case what parties are likly to benefit from that?
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« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2011, 04:20:52 pm »
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A new election is a definite possibility right now, though it would probably just result in another big victory for the N-VA and another big vctory for the PS.
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2011, 11:42:33 am »
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As expected the Liberals are being launched into the negotiations today.

http://www.lesoir.be/actualite/belgique/elections_2010/2011-01-27/les-liberaux-en-piste-des-demain-817922.php
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2011, 01:55:33 pm »
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Di Rupo now calling fo a government of national unity, which probably means that the MR and OpenVLD now are definately in.
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« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2011, 03:52:17 pm »
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Minor Newsflash: The MR today elected a new leader. Charles Michel managed to gather some 55% of the votes. He's the son of former Foreign Affairs minister and MR leader Louis Michel. This is unlikely to be really important but it could indicate that the FDF will have less importance at the top of the MR as Reynders used the FDF as a part of his anti-Michel coalition.
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2011, 11:00:55 am »
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As we're approaching the world record for screwing up when it comes to forming a government:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnqkPjoqrUY&feature=player_embedded#
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« Reply #13 on: February 02, 2011, 03:41:17 pm »
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Don't know whether anyone actually reads this but I thought I'd better give you guys another update.

Ex-MR leader and incumbent Finance minister Didier Reynders today was appointed to try to find a consensus among all parties and propose a possible formula for the next government. This is not what I expected but it is in line with the liberals slowly but steadily increasing involvement in the negotiations.

Winners:
MR
Bart de Wever

Losers:
Di Rupo and the PS
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« Reply #14 on: February 02, 2011, 05:34:45 pm »
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I'm reading with interest. I think people tend not to comment much on these threads because they know too little to contribute. At least that's how I feel.
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« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2011, 10:35:43 pm »
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I'm reading with interest. I think people tend not to comment much on these threads because they know too little to contribute. At least that's how I feel.
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« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2011, 12:38:50 am »
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They should announce the new government on April 1. It will just beat the all-time world record of a lack of government, and the announcement will be welcomed with a laugh.
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« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2011, 05:18:57 am »
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A new election is a definite possibility right now, though it would probably just result in another big victory for the N-VA and another big vctory for the PS.

A new election is no solution if the Flemish and Walloon political parties are not willing to cooperate.
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« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2011, 08:00:05 am »
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They should announce the new government on April 1. It will just beat the all-time world record of a lack of government, and the announcement will be welcomed with a laugh.

The record will fall on the 14th of this month if I'm not mistaken. Festivities are being planned already (just have a look at the youtube link above, which celebrates the approaching 'World Championship' and tells us : 'our politicians are heroes').

A new election is a definite possibility right now, though it would probably just result in another big victory for the N-VA and another big vctory for the PS.

A new election is no solution if the Flemish and Walloon political parties are not willing to cooperate.

The real problem isn't that there is absolutely no willingness to collaborate but that the wrong people have a seat at the table and that there's no way a new election would result in these people no longer being at the table. (To be explicit: The N-VA, The CD&V and probably the FDF)

Some random bits of political news:
-Last week the Vlaams Belang honoured a long tradition and tried to put amnesty for the  'collobarateurs' of WW II on the schedule of the Chamber. As usual it was voted down by the Francophone parties and the Flemish left, though only by 4 votes. Unsurprisingly the entire N-VA delegation voted for the proposal, which is especially notable given some noises made by people ranking high in the Flemish Movement asking the N-VA to make this one of their demands at the negotiations.
-High-profile former journalist and N-VA MP Siegfried Bracke is being haunted by his former membership of the SP(.a) from 1987-2001 and several columns he pseudonymously wrote for the party magazine during that period. He had some interesting things to say about Flemish-Nationalism, which he deemed to be 'past its prime and no longer relevant' and about the war mentality 'many nationalists seem to have'.
- Defence minister Pieter de Crem (CD&V) is criticized by just about everyone after documents from the American Embassy in Brussels which were among Wikileaks latest batch, revealed that he had briefed the US State Department and Clinton personally on the inner conflicts of the government and on how the government could best be pressurized into concessions and an expansion of the Belgian involvement in Afghanistan
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« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2011, 03:52:32 pm »
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They should announce the new government on April 1. It will just beat the all-time world record of a lack of government, and the announcement will be welcomed with a laugh.

The record will fall on the 14th of this month if I'm not mistaken. Festivities are being planned already (just have a look at the youtube link above, which celebrates the approaching 'World Championship' and tells us : 'our politicians are heroes').

A new election is a definite possibility right now, though it would probably just result in another big victory for the N-VA and another big vctory for the PS.

A new election is no solution if the Flemish and Walloon political parties are not willing to cooperate.

The real problem isn't that there is absolutely no willingness to collaborate but that the wrong people have a seat at the table and that there's no way a new election would result in these people no longer being at the table. (To be explicit: The N-VA, The CD&V and probably the FDF)

Some random bits of political news:
-Last week the Vlaams Belang honoured a long tradition and tried to put amnesty for the  'collobarateurs' of WW II on the schedule of the Chamber. As usual it was voted down by the Francophone parties and the Flemish left, though only by 4 votes. Unsurprisingly the entire N-VA delegation voted for the proposal, which is especially notable given some noises made by people ranking high in the Flemish Movement asking the N-VA to make this one of their demands at the negotiations.
-High-profile former journalist and N-VA MP Siegfried Bracke is being haunted by his former membership of the SP(.a) from 1987-2001 and several columns he pseudonymously wrote for the party magazine during that period. He had some interesting things to say about Flemish-Nationalism, which he deemed to be 'past its prime and no longer relevant' and about the war mentality 'many nationalists seem to have'.
- Defence minister Pieter de Crem (CD&V) is criticized by just about everyone after documents from the American Embassy in Brussels which were among Wikileaks latest batch, revealed that he had briefed the US State Department and Clinton personally on the inner conflicts of the government and on how the government could best be pressurized into concessions and an expansion of the Belgian involvement in Afghanistan


That part interests me. I've read before about how Belgian (Flemish) nationalists are apparently not just Nazi but explicitly pro-Hitler in many instances. That always struck me as pretty odd. Most nationalist movements tend to be, well, nationalist. I don't think parties like the BNP would hail traitors of the nation just because they did for a racist foreign government.

Is there a particular explanation for why this is the case in Belgium? Is it that the Germans were seen as allies against French influence?
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« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2011, 04:40:59 pm »
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Quote
Is there a particular explanation for why this is the case in Belgium? Is it that the Germans were seen as allies against French influence?

A very good question. It has mainly to do with the fact that the Germans indeed were seen by many Nationalists at the time as saviours who would unite Flanders with its Germanic brethren. When the Germans occupied Flanders during WW I they instituted some degree of self-government and made the State University of Ghent unilingual. During WW II the Flemish Nationalist movement collaborated to a level not matched elsewhere in Western Europe.

I think there are 2 factors which make Flemish-Nationalists (and members of the Walloon FN as well) less eager to distantiate themselves from this past. Firstly the degree of Fascism and National-Solidarism's popularity in Belgium even before 1940 (Rex and Degrelle, the VNV, Verdinaso,...), which means much of the collaboration came from within the existing party structures and from already existing groups, many of which were interwoven with the whole of the Flemish Movement and the whole of the Walloon right.

A second big reason for this is the (false) myth of collaboration as an anti-communist act which had nothing to do with the Shoah or with the deportation of young men to Germany. To this day some on the Flemish hard-right seem to think that the 'Flemish Legion' and its Walloon counterpart, fighting the war in the east, was an heroic affair, defending Europe from the Tartarian hordes of the Soviets. This kind of negationist will ignore the oft cited comparison between the ececution of the Endloesung in Denmark and Belgium and will basically deny the involvement of Collaborationist groups with the deportation of the Belgian jews.

I'm not an expert on the period, but this definitely are some of the reasons behind the phenomenon.

To illustrate how the FN is just as rotten as the VB on this :
Quote
Belgium: Extreme-right Leader Delacroix Has Resigned
November 06, 2008.

Michel Delacroix, the leader of the National Front, a extreme-right Belgium party, resigned after a video was broadcasted on the public RTBF television channel showing him performing an antisemitic song. The video shows Delacroix singing a song to the tune of “l’eau vive” by Jewish singer Guy Beart, but with the lyrics changed to make fun of a story of a Jewish woman sent to a gas chamber. The party said in a statement “Mr. Delacroix, perfectly aware of what his actions would mean for him, has decided to resign from his post as president of the National Front”.
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« Reply #21 on: February 14, 2011, 08:28:25 pm »
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Headlines of a poll that was supposedly published last saturday:

N-VA: 33% (up 5)
SP.a: 15.6% (up half a percent)
CD&V: 12.9% (down 6 or something like that)
OpenVLD: 12.1% (down 2)

CD&V seems to be in the terminal stages of a decade-spanning decline, which has culminated in the N-VA cannibalizing them. I don't feel any pity.
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« Reply #22 on: February 14, 2011, 08:34:28 pm »
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Notable News:

-Negotiations: Didier Reynders seems desperate to dump the Flemish left and ecolo, and finds a cheerful partner in crime the N-VA. With the ecologists basically kicked out already, the CD&V seems to get to decide whether the SP.a will be dumped.

-Marie-Rose Morel, a former VB-senator and Member of the Flemish Parliament, died of Cancer at age 38 last week. Her illness (and her bizarre love life, which culminated in a marriage with former VB-leader Franck Van Hecke some months ago) had been the subject of a considerable amount of scrutiny in the Flemish media over the past 2 years. She was buried in the Antwerps Cathedral in the presencde of some 2000 people, among whom major names of the Flemish Democratic Right, most notably De Wever. There has been some criticism of the RTBF's report on the event, which focused on Morel's xenophobe ideology. Personally, I didn't like Morel and her style of corporate-nationalism at all.
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« Reply #23 on: February 15, 2011, 12:52:35 pm »
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So has anyone ever thought of the idea of creating a national bilingual party who compete in the entire country? I mean, I understand that the tension between the Wallonians and the Flemish is very strong, but there still seem to be support for a continued united Belgium. Is this a completly radical idea, or could it work?

Also, out of curiosoty, are you Wallonian or Flemish, BelgianSocialist?

   
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« Reply #24 on: February 15, 2011, 02:59:20 pm »
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So has anyone ever thought of the idea of creating a national bilingual party who compete in the entire country? I mean, I understand that the tension between the Wallonians and the Flemish is very strong, but there still seem to be support for a continued united Belgium. Is this a completly radical idea, or could it work?

Also, out of curiosoty, are you Wallonian or Flemish, BelgianSocialist?


Well all parties were national untill the 1970's, and the Federal state itself only dates back to 1993. Before 1968 the main parties were the CVP/PSC (christian-democratic), the PS/SP (socialist) and the PVV/PRL (liberal). The CVP/PSC block was the first to explode after Flemish students and teachers in Leuven/Louvain managed to throw out their Francophone counterparts, which led to the creation of the University of Louvain-la-Neuve and to a considerable amout of discontent within the PSC over the way the government had handled the issue. The other parties fell apart during the 70s and early 80s. It should be noted that most of these new, regional parties still have a decent to good relationship with their counterparts on the other side of the Linguistical Frontier. The SP.a was notorious in the early 2000s for doing nothing which Steve [Stevaert] and Elio [Di Rupo] hadn't talked trough beforehand. The big exception to this rule is the CD&V and the cdH, which is mainly because both have completely re-styled themselves since 1972. The CD&V is a fiercely regionalist, conservative party, whereas the cdH has banned Christianity from its name and has made itself into a centre-left party.

The Greens are arguably the only real national party. Ecolo and Groen! caucus as one group in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate and have very, very good relationships. Some of the smaller, non-represented parties are officially national parties: most notably the PVDA+/PTB+, who in my opinion will be in parliament before the decade is over, though I wouldn't take an oath about that.

While nobody wants to return to national parties, there used to be a lot of talk about the possibility of partially or completely electing the Chamber via one big 'Federal Constituency', which was supposed to increase the legitimacy of politicians in the other half of the country and would solve the B-H-V mess as well . This idea seems to have been shelfed now the N-VA is dominant, though.

I'm Flemish by the way, though I hope/don't think my style of reporting events has been overtly coloured by that fact. Smiley
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