The verdict of Belgium’s last general elections – 179 days ago, on 10 June – was clear: the majority of the Belgians (i.e. the Dutch-speaking Flemings) wanted Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s coalition of Liberals and Socialists out. In Flanders, where 60% of the population lives, Verhofstadt’s leftist Liberal Party dropped from 24.7% of the vote to 20.1%. The Socialists did even worse and fell from 24.8% to 16.2%. In Wallonia, the French-speaking southern part of Belgium, however, the Liberals won and the Socialists lost, but the latter’s losses were made up by the gains of the Greens, another leftist party. While Flanders voted for the right – the Christian-Democrats and various Flemish-Nationalists – Wallonia voted for the leftist status-quo.
For almost six months, the winner of the elections, the Flemish Christian-Democrat Yves Leterme, tried to form a government, reflecting the will of Belgium’s Flemish majority. The Walloons, who, though only 40% of the population, are entitled to 50% of the cabinet seats, vetoed Mr Leterme’s proposals. Last Monday Belgium’s King Albert II asked Mr. Verhofstadt to “inform” him about possible ways to solve the Belgian political crisis.
This morning, the Brussels newspaper De Standaard reports that Mr Verhofstadt is about to form another government of Liberals and Socialists. This coalition will have 75 of the 150 seats in the Federal Chamber of Representatives, though only 32 of the 88 Flemish seats. As I wrote here following the last elections: Flanders will not get what it is entitled to. In Belgium elections have no consequences. The majority never gets what it votes for.
In November 1918 the present King’s grandfather, King Albert I, committed a coup d’etat – the so-called “Loppem Coup” – and unilaterally changed the Belgian Constitution. Since 1918 the losers of the Belgian elections tend to team up to form a new cabinet, continuing the policies that the electorate rejected. Only 9 of the 57 20th-century government coalitions which were formed since the Loppem Coup, reflected the verdict of the voters (my book “A Throne in Brussels”, page 275). It looks as if the 21st century will be no different. In Brussels, the politicians simply continue as if they have received a new mandate. Mr. Verhofstadt, the loser of last June’s elections, is about to do the same.
What is the pattern in one part of Brussels has become the pattern in the other part of Brussels, too. Two years ago the electorates in the Netherlands and France rejected the EU Constitution. The Eurocrats in Brussels simply continue as if the French and Dutch electorates have never objected.
There can be no democracy in Flanders as long as Belgium exists. And there can be no democracy in Europe as long as the EU exists.
More on Belgium’s political crisis here:
Why the Eurocrats Fear the Belgian Anarchy, 30 November 2007
See extended list at end of article.
A Throne in Brussels: Britain, the Saxe-Coburgs and the Belgianisation of Europe
Author: Paul Belien