A year without a Belgian Government

It has now been exactly a year since the Belgian Federal elections, but no federal government has yet been formed. In the early days I followed the negotiations with some sense of anticipation, and you can read some of the things I wrote in these posts. I still check up every week or so, but nothing now seems to be happening.

In a nutshell (and excluding the small German speaking community in Wallonia) Belgium is made up of two language communities and three regions: Dutch speaking Flanders, French speaking Wallonia and bi-lingual Brussels. The Flemish N-VA campaigned on the basis of fundamental reform of Belgium, giving more autonomy to the regions. They made a breakthrough in Flanders, becoming the biggest party there. In Wallonia the Parti Socialiste won most seats, wanting to keep Belgium as it is because Wallonia is less prosperous than Flanders and they fear they will lose out in any arrangement that gives the regions more autonomy. I think it's fair to say that Flanders and Wallonia would have gone their separate ways years ago had it not been for Brussels, which neither are willing to let go of.


What you think of the negotiations and who is to blame for the impasse will depend on which region you're from. Although the N-VA want the eventual independence of Flanders, the other Flemish parties are not prepared to contemplate diluting the N-VA's demands for more autonomy in order to make a deal with the French speaking parties.

There are probably two reasons for this: first, that they want more autonomy too, although maybe not independence; but second, because public opinion in Flanders is not only still very firmly behind the N-VA, but in fact growing. No other party would turn their backs on a party that has far more public support than they do. It would be electoral suicide. These are the results of a poll from last week:


     Flemish Nationalists confirm their No 1 status – FlandersNews, 10 June 2011

Support for the N-VA has gone up by over five percentage points at the expense of all other parties except the Greens; and Bart De Wever, the N-VA leader, has a personal popularity rating of 53%. What's his secret? We in Plaid could do with some of it.


So what happens next? The BBC seems to think that there won't be new elections because it won't change anything. I'm not so sure. Something has to happen, and new election will provide an excuse for some compromise, even though the faces round the table might be exactly the same. The N-VA are in a position of strength, and so have nothing to fear from a new election. In fact it will probably further strengthen their hand.

Has the year been a waste of time? Well, probably not. The N-VA's stated position has been that they want to see Belgium "very gently disappear". Is there a better way of convincing others that the Federal government is irrelevant than to simply do without one for more than a year? The sky hasn't fallen on their heads. It's now too late to organize an election before summer, but I think there'll be one in autumn.

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Anonymous said...

MH: N-VA's answer - a leader who leads a nationalist party and has lines drawn in the sand. Who didn't give in to honey-mouthed francophile talk of being 'reasonable' but stuck to his guns. The French have a linguistic border which the Dutch nor German speakers can cross. The same goes for Dutch speakers. If the francophones want to live in Flanders they'll have to learn Dutch - as the Dutch learn French is they live in Walloonia.

Belgium is dying. People place their faith in the national community not class politics.

Well done flanders.

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