Co-governing with the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) is not an option, and not even a future possibility, Nieuw Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) leader Bart de Wever said on Monday at a press conference.
“The elections designated a single real winner, so we assessed whether we could form a coalition together,” said De Wever. “It’s not possible, neither today, nor tomorrow nor next week. That’s my conviction.”
The nationalist leader explained that the extreme-right Flemish party showed two faces: while being courteous and serious at the negotiating table, it morphed into a propaganda machine on the outside. “It worked night and day,” he said, “anticipating all sorts of sticking points that did not yet exist. That’s not the thing to do at the information stage if you want joint government. You have to be able to charm your potential partners in the majority. Evidently that task is only up to me.”
Jan Jambon, designated formateur by his party’s president, hopes to meet from Tuesday with delegations representing the Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams (CD&V) and Open Vld parties, with which the N-VA has chosen to form the ruling coalition in Flanders. “This is the most coherent combination to form a strong Flemish government,” the former Interior Minister said on Monday.
Thus, Bart De Wever will not head the new Flemish government. “Unfortunately, we lost the elections,” said the N-VA leader, who had hoped to win over 30% of the votes so as to form a coalition at the federal level and place confederalism back on the table. “As a party we need to adapt to the circumstances and that obliges us to take certain casting decisions,” he explained.
The Antwerp mayor will, however, continue to negotiate for the N-VA at the federal level. “The party’s choice is very clear in that sense,” he stressed. “It’s the president, who has acquired the most experience in federal negotiations, who is in charge of that.”
However, he does not appear very optimistic. “I have a great deal of esteem for the people involved at the federal level; they have done their best to move forward, but it cannot be said that there has been real progress there,” De Wever said. “Taking charge of the formation of both the Flemish and Federal governments is not a good idea,” he noted. “That would be very long and not desirable for Flanders where governance is concerned.”
Sources among the Flemish nationalists expect an agreement to be reached within two to three weeks.