Comment | Belgium stumbles on

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All that for this? Almost 500 days after the elections, a new federal government is finally in place. It is the coalition that Bart De Wever, the biggest loser of those elections, warned threateningly in the first chairperson’s debate. A government without its party and therefore without a Flemish majority. The government that already signed off on election night. The government that was inevitable if it could not raise a coalition around the PS / N-VA axis to replace the Swedish coalition, which it had left at the end of 2018 and which subsequently lost its majority in the elections.

It is also the government that was in the scaffolding about a year ago, but was prevented by Open VLD, the party that is now taking the lead. The only difference is that Gwendolyn Rutten then reached out too eagerly for the premiership and stumbled upon an internal maneuver that is taking place today. The sequence of events that led to Alexander De Croo becoming the new Federal Prime Minister reflects a seldom seen strategic cynicism in retrospect.

More mysterious is the reasoning with which the thinned CD&V summit around chairman Joachim Coens steps into this story. All the reasons for not doing so still stand. Uncovered on the Flemish flank, superfluous for the formation of a majority, without a visible trophy and above all: an uncomfortable guest at someone else’s party, that of purple-green. Tonight it must become clear whether the supporters will agree. But to drop out now would completely destabilize the party.

Grim logic

For the politicians who are happy at childbirth, there is an unrelenting logic in this story. They tell each other and themselves that what they have accomplished is historical and necessary. Their eyes are small after a sleepless night. But in their hearts they already feel like statesmen.

The truth is more prosaic. The program presented by the new government essentially appears to be a central text that the Sherpas could have written in a day and a half. Only making the hazy suitable for multiple explanations took time. Its contours are determined by the corona crisis and the budgetary space it has created, paradoxically. The bigger the problems, the easier the solution: spend money and hope things work out. Another coalition would have come forward with much the same.

There is no shudder of high expectations across the country today. This is not 1999. The political company has suffered terrible damage in recent months. That affects all parties associated with the policy, whether they are temporarily in federal opposition or not. The great fortune of the Vivaldi ruling parties is that they have the opportunity to spend money that is not there and hope to link their name to a steady recovery. The De Croo government is in control of its own fate. It is not opposition that can shake her. Only if it shows insufficient cohesion itself, it will bring about downfall. It is a textbook example of a marriage of convenience.

Belgium is therefore stumbling on. His complex system has been put to the test for almost two years, but it turns out to be more robust than expected. It will not be thoroughly reformed even after today. As the election results announced, the policy will now be a bit more about the left than the previous one. But the bandwidth is limited. It’s not today that the sky will fall on our heads, we repeat Plastic Bertrand.





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