Christophe Licoppe

The end of the "Arizona talks" or a new beginning?

The federal coalition talks weren't going very smoothly, to say the least, but may have been damaged further by a clear statement by N-VA president Bart De Wever. It is all about a relaxation of present abortion legislation at present, which enjoys wide support among the left, but receives thumbs down from the christian democrats and the N-VA. 

The parties making up the present minority government (the Flemish and Francophone liberals of Open VLD and MR and the Flemish christian democrats of CD&V) were seeking support from the Flemish nationalists of N-VA, the Flemish socialists of SP.A and the Francophone christian democrats of CDH to form a stronger, long-term coalition government, which has been dubbed the Arizona coalition.  

This coalition would only have a slim majority and every player is needed under this scenario, but the advantage is that the biggest Flemish party, N-VA, would not have to cooperate with the Francophone socialists of the PS - the two are like chalk and cheese and their difference have blocked the formation for over a year.  Things were going relatively well, but the SP.A, as the only leftist party in this picture, demanded extra guarantees about some of their demands. 

A no-go for the N-VA: what next?

Then the abortion issue emerged. The liberals want to vote for a relaxation of the present law, but this is not to the liking of CD&V. Yesterday, things got even more complicated when Bart De Wever (N-VA) also said a relaxation is a no-go. He is now forcing the liberals to make a choice: either they drop the issue and leave it for the next federal government, or the liberals go ahead, but in that case the N-VA will not join a new team: "If they want, they can form a federal coalition with the greens and socialists. But this will have no broad support in Flanders." 

Will the liberals yield to pressure exerted by Bart De Wever? Or will they go ahead with the voting this week, leaving only the option to cooperate with the left for a new government? This week may turn out to be crucial. PM Sophie Wilmès (MR) is in for a busy week. 

In a reaction, MR-president Georges-Louis Bouchez told the Francophone public broadcaster RTBF that he is not impressed by De Wever's threats. "We have a parliamentary process of more than a year behind us. Now, the moment has come to vote in parliament." 

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