He’s back, ladies and gentlemen! Dr. Arf has resurfaced to continue his legendary series about Belgium and its woes. Will Belgium disintegrate and steal the limelight from Kosovo, or will the most European of EU members get its act together and keep going? Find out in the latest installment of dr. Arf’s Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else ) In Ten Easy Lessons!
LESSON VII : HOW TO MESS UP YOUR CHANCES OF BECOMING BELGIUM’S NEW GOVERNMENT/PM IN FIVE EASY NEWSPAPER ARTICLES
Yes, Dr. ARF is finally back with the concluding entries to the ?Belgium’ saga. I’ve been overcome with work lately, and there simply was no time left to write blog entries. But I know our P.’s own blog posts were interesting enough to not make you miss mine too much. 😉
Yves Leterme (source)
SO, HOW’S BELGIUM DOING RIGHT NOW?
It’s still loads of fun here, politically speaking. Why? Because, unlike the generations preceding them, the Modern Day Elected have a really big problem with keeping their mouths shut; especially to the media. Whereas former government formation negotiations bore an uncanny resemblance to the Vatican choosing a new pope behind closed doors and with no outside communications, nowadays we find they can’t seem to leave their Blackberries and mobile phones alone. I’m amazed none of their wives (or husbands) have threatened with impending divorce yet. “You love that Blackberry more than me!!!” Oh well, in that case, our supposed new leader, Yves Leterme, still has his goat. But still, how is ?ol’ Eve’ doing government wise?
THE GOVERNMENT THAT JUST WON’T GET INTO OFFICE
Not so well, as it happens. The Walloon politicians already hated his guts and chastised his party, CD&V, every chance they got for getting together with the Flemish Nationalists of NV-A. Not only political Wallonia hated his guts, the Wallonian media liked him as much as a hole in the head, much to his chagrin. Over the course of last year’s negotiations, Leterme became known for his public chastising (we Belgians are masochists by nature, due to this age old inferiority complex) of the French speaking media. It even went so far that he berated the francophone national broadcast corporation RTBf and generally adopted an attitude of ?you’re my buddies, the only ones I can trust’ toward its Flemish counterpart, VRT; seemingly a garden of delights for our Yves in those days.
Be that as it may, the result of the negotiations was absolute zero. Sure, they had a few partial agreements, a think tank would pore its combined brain cells over the illustrious state reform in the upcoming months, but a government, or a national budget? Sorry, constituents. We’ve lost too much time bickering and whining to the press to get to that. Mea maxima culpa. NOT.
So it was off to our good king Albert II for a – I lost count – third time (cautious estimate) for another round of talks. I won’t bore you with the details, but the end of it all was that we did get a prime minister and a cabinet : Guy Verhostadt, acting PM, would continue until Easter, Match 23rd, by which time the parties who won the elections way back when (I vaguely recall it was some time in June) would have sufficient agreements to start governing. You’d think they’d all sit in silence and work towards that goal. Not so. The Flemish liberal VLD ministers are trying to enforce new elections by constantly criticizing their future government partners, especially Yves Leterme – who landed a minister post in the interim government, as well as being vice – PM – and in fact do a better job at criticizing their own government than the opposition! And of course, all negotiation partners had to honour their agreement with the press to go over the botched negotiations with a fine tooth comb. And this week, it seemed some, if not all, took that a bit too literal…
WE LOVE THE PRESS
This week, the De Standaard newspaper – once upon a time the reference for conservative christian integrity and thus of christian democrat persusasion – is publishing a series about the botched government negotiations. Some tenors had already given interviews with other media, but this was different, as the newspaper had agreed with all key players to go over the whole period and give insight into the negotiations. I don’t read newspapers, so I was oblivious to the whole thing, until a massive row ensued, which had the media in uproar. Not only did the interviewed dignitaries talk about their negotiations, it also seemed they showed the journalists text messages from one politician to another, blackberry conversations and – stop the presses!!!! – literal quotes from their talks with King Albert II. Even worse, they quoted him, while he is supposed to maintain a public neutrality! The shock!! The horror!!
See, Albie said a couple of things that certain parties would take exception to, like, suggesting to Yves Leterme to cut loose NV-A, because he didn’t like them weighing on the negotiations. Much to the chagrin of said party, Ol’ Eve admitted NV-A were a millstone around his neck and would like nothing more. See, there’s a protocol for these matters, called ?Colloque Singulier’, which kind of means ?Private Conversation’. If the monarch can’t have such talks with the politicians without having them published virtually the next day, he is unable to say anything to anyone anymore, because he has to maintain said neutrality at least in public. Mark Eyskens (CD&V, retired), having been PM himself, as was his father, said in an interview these leaks were deliberate attempts to discredit the monarchy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s right, but on the other hand, I am a republican, thus have no love for it anyway.
I do, however, feel that this leaking has gone several bridges too far. If you agree to maintain silence about something, you should. Not one politician in this whole ordeal has adhered to any agreement made about the confidentiality of the negotiation talks, be it amongst themselves or with the monarch. Now, I know leaks are part and parcel of the political game, but what has transpired here of the past nine months is so out of line that it definitely hindered the government formation and we’re now having a ridiculous farce that’s called an interim government, led by the Guy who should have been the former PM by now and although the Easter date is being held up as the installment date of the ?real’ new government, the recent events clearly show that the path towards it is rocky, narrow and full of holes. Not surprisingly, Yves Leterme is being made scape (the man should stop breeding the beasties, it’s way too easy to make jokes about this :P) of the whole series in De Standaard. So much, even, that editor in chief Peter Vandermeersch had to come to his defense and state that all key players contributed to the series, so it wasn’t just Leterme who gave insight into his Blackberry records and his private talks with King Albert II.
In short, you wouldn’t believe it if you didn’t see it. Politicians, virtually rolling across the floor fighting amongst each other, in order to get the upper hand like children in a playground. And meanwhile, the country just rolls on as if it doesn’t need a government anyway. Day to day lives aren’t being affected by all this, which to some observers begs the question whether we still need a government at all. I say we do, if only to counter the outgrowths of globalized economies and a perfidious capitalist system (and no, I’m not a commie bastard; I just call it like I see it). But this is a display so shameful, I’m starting to long for the Stalinist manner of government and corrupt administration days of the 70’s and 80’s…
By the way, Yves Leterme this week said he’d find it ?uncouth’ if he wouldn’t be PM of the Easter Government. Yah, sure, Eve; whatever you say…