"Albert has chosen for divisive kingship"

The leader of the Flemish nationalist party, Bart De Wever, has lashed out at King Albert following the monarch's controversial Christmas address. Mr De Wever, who heads the country's largest political party, says that the king has chosen in favour of a divisive reign and cannot play any role in the government formation process in 2014.

In his Christmas address King Albert warned against resurgent populism and made comparisons with the 1930's. Practically all commentators understood this as an implicit reference to Bart De Wever's Flemish nationalist party.

On Thursday Mr De Wever writes in the daily De Standaard. The N-VA leader says that the king is not meeting his job description and has chosen in favour of a divisive kingship. Mr De Wever in turn refers to the 30's and points to the role of King Albert's predecessor, King Leopold III, who was not satisfied to play a neutral part. King Leopold wished to make political choices, even against the wishes of his government. He also met with the German leader Adolf Hitler at his Alpine retreat in Berchtesgaden. This led to the greatest institutional crisis ever and brought the country to the verge of civil war.

Mr De Wever argues that King Albert should know better: "Political kingship does not agree with democracy. Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo should, when he read the king's Christmas speech beforehand, have pointed out to the king what his democratic duties are towards all citizens. The Prime Minister did not do this and the fact that he provided political cover is clearly scandalous."

The N-VA leader also speaks of the government formation process in 2010. He claims that the fact that he was only allowed to take the initiative for a short while shows that the king is not a neutral arbiter. Mr De Wever does not believe that the king can play any role in the formation process in 2014 when the next federal elections are planned: "The job should go to parliament as is the case in the Netherlands."

Saxe-Coburgs and PS are 'fast friends'

Speaking on VRT Radio Mr De Wever said his first idea was not to respond to the king's speech, but given the wealth of reactions this was no longer an option: "I thought it was a trap. If somebody says that you are a fascist and you reject this, then you are acknowledging it a little and that I did not wish to do."

The Flemish nationalist leader believes that the king's attack is without precedent: "My first question was: who has read this and the answer was Elio Di Rupo. He must have seen it and he must agree to describing us like this. The royal house and the Francophone socialist party are fast friends."

"I don't think that the king can stay on as an arbiter. The present system can be changed by a simple majority in parliament. The king's role is based on practice and this can easily be changed. It can be done tomorrow or the day after. It's not a problem."

The N-VA leader is now to take steps to change the role of Belgium’s royal house.

"We should give the royal family a role like in normal democracies: transparent, financially responsible and outwith a political role, but with compulsory neutrality."

Mr De Wever has asked other parties to adopt a position on this.

The N-VA leader also lashes out at Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo: "He's hiding behind the throne. It's clear he's quite happy with everything. He won't say I'm a fascist, but that's what he believes and he has the king say it. It's easy, but of course also chicken-livered.”