Wallonia's left-wing coalition at risk after negotiations stumble

Wallonia's left-wing coalition at risk after negotiations stumble
The labour party said it would walk away from negotiations with the socialists, putting the prospect of a left-wing regional coalition at risk. Credit: © Belga

Negotiations to form a left-wing coalition in the Walloon parliament are on the rocks after the far-left labour party on Wednesday said it would walk away from negotiations with its socialist counterpart.

The Parti Socialiste (PS), which remained the largest party in the region after May's parliamentary elections, was holding talks with the Parti du Travail Belge (PTB) with the intention to create a broad, left-wing coalition in the regional parliament.

But talks held by representatives of both parties on Tuesday put the prospect of a coalition at risk after leaders of the far-left PTB said they would not attend a new round of talks on Thursday.

"The left deserves more," Raoul Hedebouw, spokesperson for the PTB said, accusing the PS of holding negotiations with them only as "a front" to justify teaming up with the Mouvement Reformateur (MR) liberal party, which came in at second place after the elections.

The PTB accuses the French-speaking socialists of using EU budgetary constraints as an excuse to turn down a number of proposals, with a central sticking point being their proposal to build new social-housing centres.

"We will not come [on Thursday]. Under such conditions, it is useless to meet with the PS," the labour spokesperson said on Tuesday.

A labour party 'stuck in the past'

"On Tuesday, we tried to discuss the future but the PTB kept bringing up the past," Elio di Rupo, leader of the PS and a contender for the country's premiership, said on Wednesday.

Di Rupo admitted that there were certain areas of disagreement, but said that the labour party needed to "own up to its responsibilities."

On the socialists' side, the main problem during the negotiations was the labour party's defiance to EU rules regarding Belgium's public spending, which the European Commission is closely monitoring.

"We are here to try to find a solution," he added. "Our intentions are sincere and the PTB needs to stop looking for excuses".

On Wednesday, socialist mayor of Charleroi Paul Magnette reacted to the PTB's announcement, saying the negotiations "had only started."

"The negotiations are not over — they have not begun" he Tweeted out to Hedebouw, saying they had only discussed for four hours before the labour party cut the negotiations short.

With tensions brewing between both left-wing parties, some observers say that this could pave the way for a centre-left minority coalition in the Walloon Parliament, which could see the PS join forces with the liberals (MR), with potential support from the French-speaking greens at Ecolo.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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