Nationalists, Christian democrats and liberals forge agreement

The Flemish public broadcaster VRT understands that the Flemish nationalists, Christian democrats and Open VLD liberals have struck an accord to govern Flanders for the next five years. News of the accord comes somewhat as a surprise as it only emerged last night that the libarals were being involved in the talks.

The agreement will be unveiled at a joint news conference this afternoon.

Shortly before midnight representatives of the Flemish nationalist N-VA and the Christian democrat CD&V announced that they had agreed to involve the liberal party Open VLD in the talks they were holding with a view to the formation of a new Flemish Government.

The party executives of the three parties meet in the course of the morning to decide whether or not to back the new opening.

'This is a sudden and dramatic turn of events" said VRT's chief political correspondent Marc Van de Looverbosch.

"We know hard and discrete negotiations have been underway behind the scenes. On Monday outgoing Flemish PM Kris Peeters indicated that a breakthrough was close. More or less at the end of the talks the door has been opened wide for the Open VLD."

Talks between the nationalists and the Christian democrats had been underway since the 25 May inconclusive election. The talks will now not start from scratch, though all matters are open for discussion.

Until now liberal leader Gwendolyn Rutten had always said that the liberals wanted to be in government both at the Flemish and the federal level. Marc Van de Looverbosch: "Gwendolyn Rutten has managed it. It's everywhere or nowhere."

The three centre right parties have 89 seats out of 124 in the Flemish Parliament. Marc Van de Looverbosch: "The Flemish opposition has been decimated. To my knowledge it's never happened before. It's either going to be extremely exciting or really boring."

"The outgoing administration included nine ministers. Given the new powers and increased budgets as a result of the new state reforms, they will now be looking for super ministers."

Given the parties respective strengths in parliament it looks likely the Flemish cabinet will include 4 nationalists, 3 Christian democrats and 2 liberals.

Kamikaze Belgian Government?

The inclusion of the liberals opens the way for talks on the formation of a centre-right federal government with Flemish nationalists, Flemish Christian democrats and Flemish liberals. The Francophone liberals will be the only Francophone party in what has been dubbed the 'Kamikaze Government' as it does not possess a majority among Francophone lawmakers and in Francophonia the Francophone liberals will have to carry the can for everything.

Informateur Charles Michel is reporting back to King Filip in the course of today. It's likely he will step aside. He can propose which parties can form the new federal coalition government. A Flemish Christian democrat could be appointed as formateur to form the next federal government.

Marc Van de Looverbosch: "The Flemish Christian democrats could propose outgoing Flemish PM Kris Peeters as the new federal Prime Minister. In this way the Christian democrats are not squeezed between the nationalists and the liberals. He is a figure of compromise. The Francophone liberals of MR will be able to say they are not entering an administration dominated by the Flemish nationalists.

The Kamikaze coalition holds 85 seats out of 150 in the federal parliament, but only 20 seats are held by Francophones.