Coens wants to convince supporters at a physical conference


The Vivaldi parties are looking with some care towards CD&V: will the party supporters swallow the coalition agreement? A physical conference should help chairman Joachim Coens.

Landing next evening or night, party congresses on Wednesday and the government statement of the new prime minister on Thursday. That is the scheme with which the seven Vivaldi parties still work. The congresses are usually an afternoon clapping hands, but the fear is that things could turn out differently at CD&V.

‘Chairman Joachim Coens will have to prove what he can do’, can be heard from a CD & V’er. After all, there is a lot of grumbling among the supporters. Pieter De Crem, the face of the right wing, burned down the ‘purple-green’ Vivaldi plans. Quite a few mayors in their WhatsApp group spit out their dissatisfaction with Coens.

A recurring complaint is that Vivaldi does not have a majority on the Flemish side. Moreover, many Christian Democrats are afraid of a ‘progressive’ purple-green program from which they, as a rather conservative people’s party, have nothing to gain.

Little in hands

For the time being, Coens has little in hand to convince the grumbling supporters. The chairman was emphatically committed to blocking relaxation of the abortion and euthanasia legislation. But as the liberals in the Di Rupo government discovered to their shame with their opposition to taxes, there is little credit to stop anything.

In addition, Coens also put forward a state reform as a priority. Certainly in healthcare, where the fragmentation of policy became painfully clear during the corona crisis, the Christian Democrats want to put things in order. In the CD&V world that means further regionalization, but with the liberals and the greens, two political families are sitting at the table who are also interested in the re-federalization of powers. The fear is therefore that little will happen at Community level.

Quest for trophies

So CD&V has to look for other trophies. On a socio-economic level, the Vivaldi program seems to be moving in the direction of the Christian Democrats. Not illogical, because a compromise has to be made between liberals and socialists. CD&V is in between, a position that normally suits her well.

When Coens made the turn to Vivaldi, however, he hardly spoke about the socio-economic. It makes a trophy like the minimum pension of 1,500 euros stick to the socialists. The entrepreneur’s allowance, which means that the self-employed who do not benefit from the reduction in corporate tax also pay less tax, is in turn attached to Open VLD. Nevertheless, that is one of the points that the employers’ organization Unizo, once linked to CD&V, has long been committed to.

Although Vivaldi seems to be against the CD&V program on few points, Coens has little to deal with for the time being. However, some Christian Democratic demands are on the table: raising benefits to the poverty threshold, lowering taxes for families with children, a digital tax for major internet players and more money for healthcare.

Although Vivaldi seems to be against the CD&V program on few points, Coens has few achievements of his own to make his supporters warm.

For Coens, it boils down to putting those achievements on the market. That is why a conscious choice is made to convene a physical conference. The party will probably blow up gathering in the Antwerp Queen Elisabeth Hall. Only there would members be able to vote – digitally this will probably not be possible.

The analysis is that the party leadership in a room can better clarify why Vivaldi is worthwhile. Current Deputy Prime Minister Koen Geens, who is a cool lover of Vivaldi and will no longer be a minister, has already indicated that he will support Coens in convincing the supporters. ‘I’m going to Avanti (the CD&V name for Vivaldi, ed.) dragging through our congress’, he told De Tijd last week.

‘Members are passed over’

By going for a physical congress, the CD&V top tries to pass the members, thinkers within the party. After all, a vote in a room is easier to check than an online vote, the more so because all kinds of cabinetards can be called up. Coens, who became chairman in 2019 with the promise that he would bring the village street closer to the Wetstraat, is blamed in parts of the party.

However, the party leadership is denied that the intention is to silence the supporters. ‘Any member who wishes to do so can go to Antwerp and vote.’ In normal times, the Queen Elisabeth Hall can seat about 1,500 people, but due to the corona measures, this is limited to just over 1,000. ‘At our Flemish conference there were 700 people, so that should be enough’, can be heard at CD&V.

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