International

Charles Michel: puppet of a too Flanders-friendly Belgium’s government?

Charles Michel, chairman of the Francophone liberal party (MR) swearing as Prime minister of Belgium, the 11th of october at the Laeken royal palace

Charles Michel, chairman of the Francophone liberal party (MR) swearing as Prime minister of Belgium, the 11th of october at the Laeken royal palace

This is a kind of revolution we’ve just attended in Belgium. Just a couple of months after the federal elections, the country succeeded to form a new government ruled by Charles Michel, the youngest Prime minister in the national history.

This government is a totally new right-coalition composed of the Nieuwe Vlaams Alliantie (NVA)’s Flemish nationalists, the Flemish Christian-democrats and the Flemish and francophone liberals. Forming a governing coalition was a record in a Belgium being used to living in a permanent political crisis, taking into account the fact it lasted eighteen months for the country and the main parties to implement the previous Di Rupo’s administration. It was possible when the Francophone liberal party, Mouvement Réformateur (MR) decided to negotiate with the Bart de Wever’s Flemish nationalists, excluding the francophone Socialist Party, now in the opposition after participating in almost all the federal governments for 25 years.

Some analysts from the south of the country are still wondering about the real intentions and projects of the new government, clearly represented by the Flemish parties, the real winners of the situation. Admittedly, and according to the tradition and the Constitution, the Francophone liberal party get half of the ministries. But in comparison with the other Flemish parties, there seems to be a clear unbalance regarding to the areas of competencies. Indeed, some of the regalia positions as the Interior, Justice, Economy and Civil servant service or Employment are ruled by the Flemish nationalists or the Christian-democrats, giving the impression we are faced with a Flanders friendly government rather than a real Belgian government, although the francophone Charles Michel gets the Prime minister’s top position. According to some people, the Francophone liberal leader is even considered as a puppet, here to give the impression the country still works under the principle of consenus and fooled by the main Flemish parties who clearly want to control the Belgium house from now. Moreover, some nationalists ministers and junior ministers as Jan Jambon were criticized due to some statements, Jambon for saying some people in Flanders who collaborated with the Nazi regime during the wartime “had their reasons” even if he condemned their actions.

Bart de Wever, NV-A leader and mayor of Antwerpen (Antwerp) greeting Charles Michel during the negotiations to form a federal government

Bart de Wever, NV-A leader and mayor of Antwerpen (Antwerp) greeting Charles Michel during the negotiations to form a federal government

So, it seems to be obvious the new prime minister of Belgium is in an uncomfortable position now while he made this deal with the Flemish nationalists to get rid of the socialists and impose deep and drastic reforms to the country regarding pensions, migration policy or tax system. In the same time, if the NV-A renounced to claim new nationalistic demands, according to the legislative agreement passed with the other parties, Bart de Wever hopes the participation of his movement in a federal government will be seen as a kind of showcase for an independent Flanders, in case the Flemish nationalists succeed to dismantle Belgium and make a new country. But, this revolution means to put the Francophone Socialist Part apart the power, considered as responsible for the economic and social situation of Belgium, especially in Wallonia, the francophone part.

Charles Michel and his predecessor the francophone socialist Elio di Rupo, during the transfer of powers at the "16" rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, the Prime minister's residence

Charles Michel and his predecessor the francophone socialist Elio di Rupo, during the transfer of powers at the “16” rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, the Prime minister’s residence

In other words, Michel and De Waver had a common interest but a clearly opposite objective although the MR party made the promise to never run with the NV-A, due to his separatist ideas, in the past. The main issue is to know how the new Prime minister of Belgium will manage, without another ally from the French-speaking part (the cdH’s Christian-democrat party refused, on the last summer, to get into the government and Ecolo, the Green party is totally opposed to the Flemish nationalists) to ensure and defend the Francophone interests within a majority over-dominated by the Flemish parties. It’s not for nothing the coalition Michel rules was initially named “kamikaze” because the deal is following: either the young liberal leader succeed to implement deep and innovative reforms in Belgium and calm down the Flemish nationalists demands who will not be able to demonstrate Belgium cannot be reformed, so he fails, gives reason to Bart de Wever and his party will be harshly defeated at the next federal elections planned on May 2019. And even if the Socialist party might enjoy the situation to radicalize its position face to the Flemish nationalists, it will be faced with a big dilemma: defending the unity of Belgium and letting the reforms made by a Flanders-friendly Belgian government or tackling the Charles Michel’s projects and the NV-A, adopting a pro-Wallonia strategy, by electoral interests?

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