Flemish Christian-democrats accuse PS of 'letting Belgium rot'

Flemish Christian-democrats accuse PS of 'letting Belgium rot'
CD&V's president Sammy Mahdi. Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga.

A dispute has broken out between the French-speaking socialist party (PS) and the Flemish Christian-democrat party CD&V, whose leader has accused the socialist leader Paul Magnette of "digging Belgium's grave" over pension reform.

Having left government to lead the Flemish Christian-democrats last year, Sammy Mahdi has been more vocal in criticising other Belgian parties, most of which are still leading the country alongside his CD&V party.

This time, the former State Secretary took aim at Belgium's centre-left in an interview with the Flemish magazine Humo. In particular, he singled out PS and its leader Paul Magnette.

Mahdi argued that they were "digging Belgium's grave" over pension reform, which the EU had made a prerequisite to receiving part of their Covid-19 recovery package. He denounced a proposed reform that had been agreed by the government but was blocked by PS.

Mahdi went further, stating that the decision had been "selfish and a middle finger to Belgium's youth." He even went as far as saying that "by letting (Belgium) rot, [PS] are advancing the end of our country".

The French-speaking PS refused to comment on Mahdi's inflammatory words.

Stoking the regional divide

Mahdi stated that it should be no surprise to Magnette "that many Flemish people think that Flanders should have as much power as possible" – a reference to burgeoning Flemish nationalism in recent polls.

On the topic of separatist sentiment, Mahdi turned his ire on the Flemish greens "who were accusing me of following the far-right" by calling for a stricter nationalisation process with the introduction of a compulsory exam for Belgian citizenship. "Our nationality is not some worthless rubbish, is it?" The Christian-democrat leader argued.

With the parties criticised by Mahdi not yet responding to his comments, many will now be left wondering about the state of party relations within the Federal Government. The broad coalitions of Belgium's political system means that many party factions will find themselves in office together until 2024.

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