"The body language was good": at least it's a start in the federal coalition talks
Yesterday evening saw a meeting between possible coalition partners for a new federal government, including "arch enemies" PS and N-VA. The water is still very deep between the Flemish nationalists (N-VA) and the Francophone socialists (PS), "but the body language between the party leaders Bart De Wever and Elio Di Rupo was good", says the VRT's political pundit Johny Vansevenant. Meanwhile, it looks as if there will no place for the Flemish greens, at least not in a first attempt.
The formation of the federal government is a complicated effort. As long as N-VA - the biggest political party - will be part of the preliminary talks, it looks as if the Francophone greens will suspend themselves: they earlier said that they would never cooperate with the N-VA. However, this has consequences for the Flemish greens as well, because after all the greens earlier said that they are one big family. There are in this together - or not.
In a tweet around midnight, the Flemish green supremo Meyrem Almaci said "we are still open to talks if they ask - we are taking a positive stand". However, it seems this will only happen if the talks with the N-VA falter. In that case, a plan B would pop up with a large coalition of Flemish and Francophone liberals, socialists and greens, and maybe the Flemish Christian democrats of CD&V.
To which extent can Bart DeWever and Elio Di Rupo call it a truce and find a compromise?
Despite having lost some percentage points in last May's elections, the N-VA still remains the biggest player, and the first attempt to build a federal coalition will be with the Flemish nationalists. However, the biggest stumbling block is the bad relation with the biggest Walloon player, the PS, who have different ideas about almost every important issue. The PS wants wants more social measures, while De Wever wants to continue on the path of the previous team (in a centre-right government which didn't include the socialists).
The key will be whether Elio Di Rupo and Bart DeWever can find a deal. A positive sign was that at least "the body language" between the two was good. It's a start. On 9 September, preliminary talks may start, more than 3 months after the elections. The graphics below show a possible coalition including the N-VA, and the option without the N-VA (below).