A hard swipe by CD&V leader Pieter De Crem and the leaking of the preformation bill make the Vivaldi negotiations even more difficult than they already were. There is still a chance that the Christian Democrats will leave the table.
On Thursday evening, the preformers Egbert Lachaert (Open VLD) and Conner Rousseau (sp.a) physically sat together with the Vivaldi parties for the first time in ten days. Lachaert’s positive corona test made that impossible last week. The duo wants to speed up, because the plan remains that the coalition of liberals, socialists, greens and CD&V will take the oath on 1 October. Two elements throw a spanner in the works: a frontal attack by CD&V leader Pieter De Crem and the fact that the negotiator’s note leaked in De Tijd. Both weigh on the trust between the negotiators.
Pieter De Crem is busy with his career: he hopes to be saddled with a minister post.
De Crem, Minister of the Interior in the Wilmès government, took the blunt ax in an interview with De Standaard. If his party joins Vivaldi, it will have a ‘gigantic credibility problem’, he says. With phrases such as ‘Vivaldi will further reduce our electoral strength’ and ‘we will oppose the majority’, the East Flemish makes it clear that he would rather see his party leave the negotiating table.
In terms of content, CD&V will be able to weigh too little, De Crem fears, which in his view will make the project a purple-green story. Since the Christian Democrats are not mathematically necessary for Vivaldi, he believes that the promise that ethics issues will only be decided by majority consensus is worth little. The state reform desired by the CD&V will only take shape during the legislature, so that the party has few guarantees about this either.
CD&V has just the intention to prevent purple-green.
According to De Crem, who belongs to the right wing of CD&V, Lachaert and Rousseau’s note ‘most closely resembles the Groen en Ecolo program’. With the greens that is dismissed as pure nonsense. The note does not return to crucial reforms of the Michel government, such as the raising of the statutory retirement age, the corporate tax reform and the tax shift. In the field of security and asylum and migration, the memorandum also appears to build on the policies of the previous government, which was fought hard by the Greens and the Socialists.
Yet De Crem is not alone with his criticism. It is supported by many CD&V mayors, who, like their colleague from Aalter, want a coalition with the N-VA and the PS. ‘Pieter De Crem expresses the concerns of our local administrators,’ says Kurt Vanryckeghem, the mayor of Waregem. ‘Purple-green is not our thing. Joachim Coens can continue to listen and try to bring in as much as possible. But if that doesn’t work, we have to pull the plug. ‘
Coens had been informed of De Crem’s interview and was not surprised. “I think Pieter’s message is that we have to negotiate sharply,” he said laconically. Flemish Minister of Welfare and former chairman Wouter Beke (CD&V) came to the rescue. “CD&V has just the intention to prevent purple-green,” he declared on Radio 1. Read: it is important that CD&V steps into Vivaldi because otherwise there will be a progressive government.
Joachim Coens can keep listening and try to bring in as much as possible. But if that doesn’t work, we have to pull the plug.
Coens is aware of the internal resistance, because he maintains close contact with local administrators in a WhatsApp group. He shouldn’t fear an uprising right away, but if he can’t get enough guarantees, the mayors will urge to pull the plug on Vivaldi.
In principle, the Vivaldi parties can continue without CD&V, but with a majority of only 76 out of 150 parliamentary seats, that will be particularly tight. A negotiator thinks that the soup is not eaten as hot as it is served. ‘De Crem is busy with his career: he hopes to get a minister post.’
The negotiations will probably not reach cruising speed until this weekend. Many knots, such as the nuclear exit or the introduction of some kind of wealth tax, have yet to be taken. Moreover, the budget is a question mark. The negotiators have resolved that the new policy should be budget neutral. If money is allocated, for example to increase the minimum pensions towards EUR 1,500 net, this must be compensated elsewhere.
It remains crucial who may become prime minister and in the next phase. As chairman of the largest party, Paul Magnette (PS) has the best cards for this on paper, but MR chairman Georges Louis Bouchez wants to keep his party member and current prime minister Sophie Wilmès (MR) in 16 rue de la Loi. To leave the Walloon conflict undecided, a Fleming can be chosen. Then Alexander De Croo (Open VLD) seems to have the best chance. A decision on this is not expected until Sunday at the earliest.