King Filip appoints Francophone socialist leader to find “coalition that is most likely to succeed”

The Belgian Head of State King Filip has appointed the Francophone socialist Paul Magnette as “Informateur”. Mr Magnette’s task will to be to try and find which parties would be most likely to be able to eventually reach agreement on a new federal coalition government. The VRT’s political editor Bart Verhulst says that “Mr Magnette can now look into the possibility of success for his preferred option, a purple-green (a coalition made up of socialists, greens, liberals and Christian democrats) coalition. However, this has the least chance of success.      

In a press statement released on Tuesday evening the Palace wrote “His majesty the King has taken note of the Preformateurs Geert Bourgeois and Rudi Demotte’s conclusion that there is insufficient ground to initiate the (coalition) formation phase. The King has brought the Preformateurs mission to an end. The King has appointed Mr Magnette as Informateur. Mr Magnette has accepted and will report to the King on 18 November”.      

Straight after his appointment Mr Magnette said that he would be talking to the Flemish nationalists and above all to the Flemish and Francophone greens, leaving the door open for an eventual federal coalition made up of the liberals, socialist and greens from both sides of the linguistic divide and the Flemish Christian democrats.  

"King was walking on eggshells”

Speaking in the VRT’s evening television news programme, our political editor Bart Verhulst said “After having spoken with the greens the King reflected for a few hours before deciding to appoint Mr Magnette as Informateur. He will have until at least 18 November when he will report back to the King for the first time”.     

"In any case this appointment was not an easy task for the King. He had to walk on egg shells as the various parties were not in agreement about what should be the next step. This meant that the King had to be cautious to avoid being accused of being partial”.       

"The Flemish nationalists and the Francophone socialists were pointed to each other when asked who should take the initiative. Now it is Mr Magnette that will probably test the possibility of forming the coalition that he has wanted from day 1.”

Political impasse

Mr Magnette is the 5th politician appointed by the King to test the ground for eventual coalition talks. The question is whether he will be able to build on the preparatory work done by Didier Reynders (Francophone liberal), Johan Vande Lanotte (Flemish socialist) and Geert Bourgeois (Flemish nationalist) a Rudy Demotte (Francophone socialist) or will he have to start again from scratch? Bert Verhulst believes that it will be the latter.    

"The formation (of a coalition) is completely blocked. The Flemish nationalists and the Francophone socialists both want different things. The Flemish nationalist want to follow a centre-right path with state reforms and the Francophone socialists want social policies at the fore with no state reforms”.    

"The two parties mistrust each other greatly and moreover are each under pressure from a radical party to which they have both lost a lot of voters. Vlaams Belang in the case of the N-VA and PVDA in the case of the PS”.

But what now? "That’s the big question. According to some parties, including the Flemish socialists, the Flemish nationalists don’t want a solution and the party in fact doesn’t want to be in the next federal government. The nationalist deny this. In any case the Francophone socialists have a tactical advantage as the party is mathematically indispensable to form a new government”, Bart Verhulst concluded.