King Filip appointed Mr Lachaert (above) as his royal negotiator: his brief is to end the political stalemate that has had the country in its grip for over a year. The talks offer the prospect of the installation of a new Belgian federal government with a working majority.
The issue is pressing. Belgium is currently administered by a special government put in place to tackle the corona emergency. It can count on support from MPs from both government and opposition benches, but needs to seek a new mandate by 17 September. Several of the ten parties supporting PM Wilmès (Francophone liberal - below) have indicated they are not willing to do so.
The gathering at the weekend brought together the so called ‘Vivaldi parties’: representatives of Belgium’s four main political families with lawmakers from both sides of the linguistic divide. “A political family for every season” if you so wish: liberals, socialists, Christian democrats and greens. Only the Francophone Christian democrats are not taking part, but they are not really needed to give the Vivaldi Coalition a new majority in the federal parliament. The Flemish nationalists of N-VA, Belgium’s biggest party, are not involved in this negotiation.
PM Wilmès, whose party is one of the seven participating, hopes these efforts will be crowned with success: “There is now a momentum for a majority government” she told VRT.
She insisted on the importance of a government that possesses a majority and can develop a comprehensive plan for economic recovery.
Success is far from guaranteed. The Flemish Christian democrats are refusing any relaxation of abortion legislation and are pressing for more powers to be devolved. This conflicts with other parties’ stands.
If talks fail an election is in the offing but the PM says this will only lead to procrastination and offer little progress: the same parties with the same platforms will be present after the election.
And what about Mr Lachaert: he hopes King Filip will allow him to embark on a brand new phase as early as next Friday: formal coalition talks.