Nicolas Maeterlinck

Paul Magnette has a meeting with Bart De Wever in Antwerp: more than a polite visit?

Informateur Paul Magnette had a meeting with N-VA leader Bart De Wever yesterday evening, to counter criticism that he had turned his back on the Flemish nationalists. Was the meeting just a polite visit, or was it serious business? 

Magnette and De Wever spoke for one hour and a half yesterday. Bart De Wever was accompanied by deputy chairman Lorin Parys and federal MP Theo Francken. The federal floor speaker for the N-VA, Peter De Roover, downplayed the importance of the meeting. 

Background

Paul Magnette (Francophone socialist, PS) is taking soundings from the various parties to find out what could be a possible federal coalition. In the past weeks, it looked as if he preferred a coalition of Flemish and Francophone socialists, liberals and greens, the so-called "purple-green" option.

This was not well received by the biggest Flemish player, the Flemish nationalists of N-VA, who said they were being left out by someone who has the task to keep all options open as 'formateur'. 

N-VA president Bart De Wever received a visit from Magnette yesterday. It is not clear how the talks went, but the N-VA support the second option of a coalition between Flemish and Francophone socialists and liberals, and the N-VA, the so-called "purple-yellow" construction. 

Paul Magnette was just sticking to his duties

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The VRT's political pundit Johny Vansevenant thinks the visit was just a polite one, and that nothing much is to be expected from it: "It's not as if we are suddenly heading for purple and yellow now. Mr Magnette was just sticking to his duties, to consult the N-VA as well." It is no secret that the water between the N-VA and the PS is pretty deep: the gap between right-wing and left-wing ideas seems almost impossible to bridge. 

A key role is being played by the Flemish liberals: will Open VLD president Gwendolyn Rutten accept a coalition with the socialists and greens (and maybe become the new PM?) Her party is divided over the issue. 

Or rather veteran Koen Geens?

The Flemish Christian democrats prefer a coalition that includes the N-VA. Though their role is relatively small, their support could come in handy, as a purple-green alliance would only have a majority of one seat (76 out of 150) in the Federal Parliament. However, Justice Minister Koen Geens may be tempted by the idea that he could become the new PM if CD&V were to join the liberals, socialists and greens. 

Paul Magnette is reporting to King Filip on Monday. The king may next choose a formateur, a person charged with the formation of a new government.