If all goes well, Belgium, the host country of the European Union, will have a new government by Sunday. Today, on the 192nd day since the general elections of last June 10th, outgoing Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, the big loser of the June elections, announced that he has succeeded in putting together a government coalition of five parties – his own Flemish Liberal Party, the Flemish Christian-Democrat Party, the Walloon Liberal Party, the Walloon Humanist Party and the Walloon Socialist Party.
Belgium is a multinational country of 10 million inhabitants, consisting of 60% Dutch-speaking Flemings and 40% French-speaking Walloons. The new coalition has a two third majority of 101 of the 150 seats in the Belgian Federal Chamber of Representatives. The coalition is predominantly Walloon, backed by 53 Walloon seats (out of a total of 62 French-speaking Representatives) and 48 Flemish seats (out of a Flemish total of 88 Representatives).
Elections have no consequences in Belgium, at least not for the Dutch-speaking majority. Last June’s elections were (as always) won by the right in Flanders, but have (as always) led to a leftist government. This is exactly as was predicted here six months ago: “Flanders and France vote for the right. But Flanders will not get what it is entitled to.”
Though Mr. Verhofstadt was ousted from office last June, Belgian King Albert II appointed him Prime Minister Designate after the efforts of Yves Leterme, the leader of the Flemish Christian-Democrats and the winner of last June’s elections, to form a coalition had been thwarted by Walloon vetos.
Yves Leterme will become a Deputy Prime Minister in the new Verhofstadt cabinet; a Walloon trade union leader will become minister of Labour. Mr Leterme’s Flemish Christian-Democrats (30 seats in the Chamber) agreed to join the coalition after Mr Verhofstadt promised that the new government will be but an “interim government,” which has to lay the basis for a Leterme cabinet later on. Mr Verhofstadt and Mr Leterme agreed that the former will only remain Prime Minister from Christmas until Easter, when the latter will be allowed to take over. By Easter the Belgians will know what this political deal is worth. If the deal is worth as much as the elections, Mr Leterme better not count on it. Indeed, why would the support of the election’s loser be able to achieve what the support of a record 800,000 voters cannot?
During the past weeks there has been considerable international pressure on the Belgian politicians, especially Mr Leterme, to end the political stalemate.
As in all 27 member states of the European Union, three quarters of Belgium’s annual legislation emanates from the European authorities in Brussels. As everywhere, the Belgian Parliament merely stamps its approval to the directives issued by the European Commission and submitted to the Parliament by the Belgian government. Because of the Belgian political crisis there was no government to submit the EU directives to the Parliament for approval.
Moreover, without a government Belgium cannot initiate the ratification process of the European Constitutional Treaty, signed last week in Lisbon. This treaty, in which Belgium and the other EU members renounce their national sovereignty to the EU authorities, was signed on Belgium’s behalf by Mr Verhofstadt. Belgium needs a government which can present the treaty to Parliament for ratification.
This situation, in which not a single European directive could be implemented in the EU’s host country, nor the European Constitution ratified, is one which the Eurocracy could not allow to continue. Hence, the pressure on Mr Leterme to come to a deal with Mr Verhofstadt.
More on Belgium’s political crisis here:
Brussels: What the People Vote Down, the Elite Brings Back, 10 December 2007
The Brussels Pattern: Elections Have No Consequences, 6 December 2007
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