To continue or not to continue? That's the question. 7 of the 9 parties at the table have expressed their will to continue the coalition talks on the basis of the proposals worked out by formateur Elio Di Rupo (PS).
The Flemish nationalists of N-VA said "no" last week, which only leaves the Christian democrats of CD&V. They are holding the key now: if they join the talks after all, the 8 parties can continue without the N-VA and try to form a new federal government and work out a major state reform without the biggest party in Flanders. If the CD&V refuses, the 7 others don't have the necessary two-third majority to approve the state reform in parliament.
The problem however is that nobody knows what the CD&V wants exactly. The party has been hiding behind the N-VA and has made it clear that it wouldn't go on unless the N-VA does. However, CD&V leader Wouter Beke left some hope yesterday, when he said that the CD&V is willing to join the talks after all on the condition that Mr Di Rupo makes certain changes to his text.
These changes concern the compensations that Francophones would receive for splitting the constituency of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (photo). Mr Beke claims that he had worked a deal which was acceptable for the two biggest parties, the Francophone socialists of the PS and the N-VA, when he was serving as mediator and now wants Mr Di Rupo to adopt his version.
"An evaluation of the situation"
Mr Di Rupo, who is heading the talks as formateur, asked King Albert to be relieved from his duties last Friday, after receiving a "no" from the N-VA. However, he is producing a last-gasp effort as there does not seem to be any alternative.
This morning, the 7 parties at the table (socialists (PS), liberals (MR), Christian democrats (CDH) and greens (Ecolo) for Wallonia and socialists (SP.A), liberals (Open VLD) and greens (Groen!) for Flanders) met.
It was the first time since 1 October that so many parties had been together at one table. "This is not the start of negotiations between the 7 of us, but just an evaluation of the situation", Mr Di Rupo said in a statement, showing how delicate matters are.
7 parties up the pressure on the CD&V
The result of this morning's meeting was that the 7 parties want more information from the CD&V regarding to their exact wishes.
Afterwards, Mr Di Rupo released an official statement: "I noticed an unanimous will with the 7 parties, which represent 92 of the 150 seats in the federal parliament, to drag the country out of the political turmoil and to give it a proper government. However, a two-third majority is needed for a state reform, which means at least 100 of the 150 seats."
(...) "The 7 parties have taken note of the latest declarations made by the CD&V with a lot of interest. They want to seize this opportunity to raise the number of partners at the table, and invite the party leader to supply more details on his exact wishes. I will contact him (Wouter Beke, red.) immediately."
Later this afternoon; Wouter Beke said that he is prepared to give more details on the CD&V's position. It is not clear though when this will happen, tonight or tomorrow (photo: Elio Di Rupo and Wouter Beke in the elevator).
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the CD&V to make concessions, work out a compromise and join the talks, in the country's interest. At the other hand, the N-VA has already said that "it hopes that the CD&V will not be persuaded to join the talks." The proposals are no good, deputy chairman Ben Weyts of the N-VA told the VRT.