Gérard Deprez, vice-president of the conservative party MR of premier Charles Michel, has set out his party’s first condition for taking part in a governing coalition following the 26 May general election: there must be no ministerial post for N-VA politician Theo Francken.
This week Francken told a TV audience he was ready in a new government to take back his previous post as secretary of state for asylum and migration, “despite everything that has been said”. In his time in office, Francken presided over a scandal of the trade in humanitarian visas for Syrian Christians. It was his party’s opposition to the signing of the UN migration pact that led to their withdrawal from the government, leaving Michel with a caretaker minority unable to take new initiatives. And in general, Francken’s uncompromising and often combative tone raised the hackles of even other conservatives.
“I’m not saying we should start again with the N-VA [after the election], but I am saying we may not be able to do without,” he told the RTBF. He explained that it is up to the communities – Flemish and French-speaking – to decide who will form the next coalition, and that it was CD&V who brought N-VA in last time, not his own MR. “But I will say formally that I do not wish Theo Francken to form part of a future government.”
Deprez already spoke out once against Francken, when it was discovered that representatives of the Sudanese government had cooperated with the Belgian government – and with Francken’s department – in the repatriation of failed asylum Sudanese seekers to their country of origin.
Earlier, last weekend, Elio Di Rupo, president of the French-speaking socialist party PS, issued his own veto, but against Francken’s entire party, when he promised that the next federal government would be “either with the PS and without N-VA, or with N-VA and without the PS.” The later option has of course been the case since 2014, with MR the sole French-speaking party in the coalition.
Francken himself responded on Twitter: “Too bad how some people keep on hitting below the belt,” he wrote. “But luckily the MR is better than that.”