N-VA calls for ‘Flemish front’ against Francophones as coalition talks collapse again

N-VA calls for ‘Flemish front’ against Francophones as coalition talks collapse again
N-VA chair Bart De Wever's individual political page ranks highest in Belgium and in Europe in terms of advertising budget. Credit: Belga

Top figures of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) called on Flemish parties to create a united “front” against the Parti Socialiste (PS), after the Francophones again ruled out any chances of a federal coalition with the Flemish nationalists.

“Francophones, and especially the PS, must see that they cannot create dissension between us, it’s a matter of self-respect,” N-VA MP and former state secretary Theo Francken said, speaking in a radio interview on Monday.

N-VA leader Bart De Wever doubled down on Francken’s statements, telling reporters that Flemish parties should resist giving in to the “ukases of the PS,” which he accused of wanting to relegate Flemish parties to a minority position in the federal parliament.

Their statements follow yet another failed attempt at the formation of a federal government, after the latest appointee to lead the negotiations walked away from his mandate at the weekend.

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But the calls of the largest party in the Dutch-speaking region were quickly rejected by other main Flemish parties, in a blow to the N-VA which came only hours after Francken’s and De Wever issued their statements.

The leader of the Flemish liberal party, Open Vld, said they opposed the N-VA’s polarising statements, calling out their “warlike language” and saying they would favour collaboration instead.

“We opt for cooperation, not to be at odds with others but [to work] for a better Belgium with [MR]” party leader Gwendolyn Rutte said, referring to the Open Vld’s Francophone counterpart, the MR, and its leader Georges Bouchez.

After the N-VA, and with the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) frozen out of the negotiation process, the Open Vld came out as the third-largest party in Flanders in the federal elections, after the centre-right CD&V.

While Rutten’s statements were echoed by the leader of the CD&V, Joachim Coens, he acknowledged that the PS’ continued refusal to negotiate with the N-VA was problematic for Flanders.

“If they continue to make it impossible to [have] a majority on the Flemish side, it’s a big problem,” Coens said.

The new stand-off on Monday further entangles the negotiations to form a federal government, as Belgium marks its 427th day without a fully-fledged federal government since the Michel government collapsed in late 2018 over a migration row with the N-VA.

In a renewed attempt to break the impasse and sound out parties for a potential coalition, King Philippe will on Monday afternoon hold yet another round of talks with the representatives of ten parties, excluding the Vlaams Belang and far-left labour PTB/PdvA party.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

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