Flemish socialists demand that Francophone liberals leave the federal coalition negotiations

Just a few hours before the federal “Preformateurs” are due to meet with King Filip to update him on their progress, the Flemish socialists issued an ultimatum demanding that the Francophone liberals leave the coalition talks. After Sunday’s breakdown of the coalition talks the Flemish socialists no longer wish to enter a federal government with George Louis Bouchez’s Francophone liberals. 

This has created a state of stalemate and gridlock for the two Preformateurs, the Flemish socialist leader Conner Rousseau and the Flemish liberal leader Egbert Lachaert. Political observers say that it looks like Mr Bouchez is overplaying his hand.

Both his attitude at the negotiating table and public declarations in which he not only antagonised the Francophone socialist leader Paul Magnette, but also insisted that the current Prime Minister, his party colleague Sophie Wilmès, should lead the new government, have made the situation between the Francophone liberals and the socialists all but inconsolable one source told VRT News.

Even the idea of having two negotiators per party, so Mr Bouchez would no longer be his party’s only negotiator, wouldn’t be enough to bring the Flemish socialists round. They want Mr Bouchez and his party out of the negotiations.

Mathematically it would be possible to form a federal coalition without the Francophone liberals. A “Vivaldi” coalition made up of Flemish and Francophone socialists, liberals and greens and Flemish Christian Democrats would have 86 of the 150 seats. Without the Francophone liberals it would have 74 seats, 2 seats short of a majority. However, it the Francophone Christian democrats came on board the coalition would have 79 seats, a majority of 8 seats over what would be the opposition.

The big issues remains whether the Flemish liberals would be prepared to drop the Francophone liberals and enter a federal coalition as the only liberal party. Sources close to the Flemish liberal leader Egbert Lachaert say that he wouldn’t be prepared to do this. 

The Preformateurs will meet the King later this afternoon. What happens next is anyone’s guess. 

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