Yesterday, Paul Magnette, president of the French-speaking socialist party PS and his counterpart with Flemish nationalists N-VA announced their attempt to put together a new government coalition had run aground, and that they will on Monday ask the King to relieve them of their mission.
Flemish liberals Open VLD were being courted by the pair of ‘preformateurs’ to make up a majority in parliament, but the party’s new president, Egbert Lachaert, could not be swayed.
“We already have a budget deficit of more than €20 billion over two years,” he told the VRT.
“The note Magnette and De Wever was going to add €15 to €16 billion a year. Sorry, but I do not want to do that to my children,” he said. He also complained of how the paid appeared to be playing the liberals off against the greens.
“The coalition could have succeeded if a choice had been made this morning. But they do not want to make a choice and prefer to play a game of divide and conquer between parties,” Lachaert said
“We expected an opening but it absolutely did not happen.”
For the French-speaking green party Ecolo, president Jean-Marc Nollet could not find common ground with the programme proposed by PS/N-VA.
“There were several shortcomings,” he told RTBF News.
“First of all on environmental and social issues, the fight against climate change, against pollution, the fact of protecting citizens faced with the crisis, all this required something other than what was proposed. The second subject that presented a problem was the institutional framework towards which the N-VA was leading us, and which the PS had accepted.”
Specifically, he said, an institutional framework that “would have led to the dismantling of the nation”.
He denied claims, meanwhile, that his party had never been fully committed to finding a solution to the impasse that see the country without a majority government even 447 days since the elections.
“We met with the N-VA. Then we read stories in the media that said environmentalists weren’t even listening, and that’s not true,” he said.
“We took the time to listen, but when we see the plans, we sees the gap that there is between this project and our wishes for Belgium, whether on the ecological, environmental dimensions or on the institutional framework.”
Magnette and De Wever will on Monday – assuming the King accepts their resignation as preformateurs – attempt to steer the monarch towards giving the job of seeking a coalition to the greens (Ecolo and Groen) and liberals (Open VLD and MR).
The liberal group is currently in the caretaker government, and was for the whole period in office of former PM Charles Michel. Lachaert is not ruling anything out for the moment.
“Various scenarios are still possible,” he said, while recalling that matters are slightly urgent.
“There is a very clear deadline. Prime minister Sophie Wilmès must return to parliament by 17 September to ask again for its confidence,” he said.