We Are The Champions! (Not)

In light of today’s friendly between Belgium and Slovenia in Genk, dr. Arf prepared another guest post which I’m more than happy to publish. Not in the least because I’m having trouble keeping with the regular pace of posting (which I think is pretty obvious). Things will improve, however, as things are heating up yet again within the coalition. More on that tomorrow, as well as the fate of Croatian NATO membership bid.

And now for something completely different

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Twenty-two guys chasing a single ball and selling enormous quantities of beer in the process 😈

(If you are a football enthusiast with no sense of humor (although, in my opinion the one automatically confirms the other), please look away now)

The nation known as Belgium, as you all know after having read my ?Belgium Explained To Slovenes’ guest posts, is fractured to the point of breaking up, but it – or rather, the football adoring sheep that populate it and they are many – comes together whenever the national team is playing. And why? To see them lose and have the national coach explain that it a) was undeserved, b) the ref was unfair, c) they didn’t do all too bad in spite of the loss. Or, in a more positive scenario, have him declare a draw to be a major victory for the team (“We’re doing better”; “team spirit is great” etc…). Anyhoo, I vowed to never, ever watch an entire football match while being conscious and sound of mind for the rest of my life, just like I’m doing everything in my power (up to putting fingers in my ears whenever an unsuspecting or foolhardy DJ is torturing me with a song of theirs) to avoid being subjected to music by The B*****s. But the latter is an altogether different story, best served in a bar along with several helpings of certain alcoholic beverages…

So why this hatred and utter disdain for football? Because football, my dear Pengovsky.com readers, ruined my childhood. It permeated through every aspect of my childhood in a negative way. Friendships were forged and/or lost on the high school playground, depending on which team you favoured. If you had none, had two left feet to boot and a lot of book knowledge, you were a nerd in the making and hence not deemed worthy to run with the alpha males in the making. I was lucky enough to have only one left foot (the right one apparently was good for kicking round, blown up pig skin in whatever direction it needed to go very accurately, even though I’m born a left hander and footer), and survival instinct compelled me to join in supporting the biggest team in Belgium (Anderlecht, nothing has changed since, even though they try their best to fuck up, I am told). But I was also bookish and smart. And my real sports were cycling and tennis. Not the most wowing sports in those days – save for one Eddy Merckx who was cycling in the Autumn of his career by then but was and still remains the greatest cyclist of all time (sorry, Tadej Valjavec 😉 ) and Björn Borg being the Swede everyone knew as the Eddy Merckx of tennis.

Football also ruined any hope of family respectability. Whenever there was football on TV, my granddad commandeered the thing and we had to sit in silence while he and his sons gazed at the black and white screen. And this was usually at the time when my favourite music programs were on. This did not help my growing antipathy towards what I considered to be one of the most boring sports of all (besides golf and curling). Even watching grass grow, I felt and still feel, is more interesting than this sport. Or what to think about having to sit through all the match results of all leagues being read over national radio (yes, ALL of the eight leagues, 18 matches each) while having Sunday dinner. It made the most boring day of the week even infinitely more boring. I think that’s when I became suicidal, which only passed after having been abstinent of this overblown and overhyped game for at least a decade.

Because that’s what it is : an overblown and overhyped game, with twenty overpaid sissies – who manage to roll over and act out certain death when being slightly touched by an opponent and then call this ?strategy’ – running after a ball and two trying to catch it when it’s shot towards them. There is a scene in a Simpsons episode (stemming from when the WC ?soccer’ was played in the USA, if I recall correctly) where the sheer boredom of watching this is perfectly illustrated. Art imitating life. I love it. But then, one single Simpsons episode displays more intelligence and excitement than the entire Champion’s League season.

“Why”, I can hear you think, “am I reading this here?” Simple : Belgium is playing Slovenia tonight, which compels me to break my vow, if for nothing else than to support the team of the country I feel more at home at than my own. And I hope I will derive no small amount of satisfaction when the Slovene team kicks Belgium’s team’s ass into oblivion. Please do, ?tis only just…

Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons

N.B.: this is the final post in the series by dr. Arf. To say that the series enriched this blog would be a gross understatement. The great Michael M. once compared yours truly with the Slovenian Wikipedia. However my knowledge of things past and present is puny compared to that of Dr. Arf and if I had any respect for the man and his wisdom I’d hide in a corner every time he enters the room. However, as a bodacious and irresponcible agent provocateur that I am (again, as described by the man who gave us Carniola.org), I (with the help of commentators and fellow bloggers) lured dr. Arf into writing this series and I can only begin to thank him for taking us on this journey.

It began on June 26th 2007. It’s been fun, at times even emotional and hardcore almost to the point of calling the whole thing off, but in the end everything worked out well. Thanks, man! And I hope you’ll treat us to some more of your writing in the near future. And I ain’t talking about comments. Capisce? :mrgreen:

LESSON 10: THE FINAL

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This Is The End

Since I’ve finally come to the end of this guest series (do I hear a sigh of relief there?), I’m just going to round up various news items and close off with a final assessment before bidding farewell. I would like to extend my eternal gratitude to Pengovsky, who himself is a blogger extraordinaire (once again proven by recent posts about Zoki and the Open Letter To Borut Pahor, to name but a few stand-out examples, not to mention his weekly FF and – not so weekly 😉 – MMM posts) for giving me this opportunity to blog…

Various news items

– Last Monday, the 24th, the VRT and VTM news desks received a DVD, containing an admonition by Men Whose Face Were Wrapped In Towels, forcibly waving arms and pointing fingers upward (and using their left hand, which is apparently an insult in their culture), but with their message in subtitles and instead of the audio version, an a capella song, which seems to be a hit among the Youtube crowd, whose main concern in half the comments seems to be where they can download this cool tune (I happen to agree it is a cool tune, although the lyrics may be less favourable to an anti-religious Pagan like me) and the fact that somewhere in the song, with a bit of good will and a dirty mind, one can hear ?dikke vagina’ (Flemish/Dutch for ?fat vagina) being sung repetitively. Our national security agency confiscated the DVD’s to determine whether or not this message is a joke, compiled from downloaded internet sources (which isn’t that unlikely), or a genuine threat of terrorist attacks in Belgium, due to our involvement in Afghanistan (for which we have War Monger par excellence and minister of defence Pieter De Crem to thank). You can watch the footage in question here. Subtitles are in Dutch, and I can’t be arsed to translate this kind of terrorist religious tripe, whether it’s serious or not. The gist of it is : “Get out of Afghanistan or we’ll bomb you, you western pigs who cling onto life and impurity when we love purity and death etc.” blah blah blah… Still, that tune is cool.

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– Coming back to the Vl. Pro débâcle, last night, after writing the blog post about it, I watched Bert Anciaux (pictured above; the grey haired chappy) being interviewed in the news magazine Ter Zake (?On the Case’, a rather bad translation, I admit, because it could also mean ?But Seriously’ but that doesn’t sound too, eh, serious) by the Hottest News Journalist This Side Of The Language Border, Annelies Beck (rather unflattering yet sufficiently illustrating pic above, to the left of the unflattering grey haired chappy). Dear old Bert behaved perfectly the way I predicted. With a pained scowl on his face, like he had a spikey rod permantely inserted up his rectum, he proceeded to explain that he wanted to retain his ministerial post at all cost ?because he wanted to actively change something’ and not be sidelined. In other words : our self appointed idealist, who started ID21/Spirit/Vl.Pro out of idealism, used this idealism to justify his impending move – of course not confirming it just yet – to SP-a. Bert, above all else, wants to be in the thick of the power circles. To ?do something’. He didn’t say what, though. So when the chips are down, he jumps ship. What an idealist. Not that it’s surprising, though. I recall him when still being chairman of VU, being very disappointed in national politics (because he couldn’t ?do something) and moving on to try to get elected at the European level because, and I quote, he was ?sick of national politics’. But when the CVP (predecessor to CD&V that was permanently in power with various coalition partners for over 50 years, as I explained a few posts back) surprisingly lost the elections, Anciaux insisted his party’s elected officials step aside to enable him to return to the national politics he so despised. Yes, because he could ?do something. That’s when he became minister of Culture for the very first time and as predicted, it was a disaster. So if nothing else, Bert Anciaux is at least consistent, just as I wrote a few hours prior to his interview with that scrumptious Annelies Beck.

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– Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel De Gucht (VLD, pic with spouse Mireille) is in all sorts of trouble : not only is he being named in a bank stock scandal (his wife sold Fortis stocks just a few hours before this bank was sold to NBP Paribas as a direct result of the Credit Crunch, which implies he could have passed on this – secret – info, as it was the government who negotiated the deal), he’s also personan non grata in the Democratic Republic of Congo, because he very diplomatically, called their government corrupt. Unsurprisingly, he’s not welcome in the DRC anymore. Not that anyone would want to go there, with sadly yet another genocide happening as we speak…

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– The Case Of The Three Francophone Mayors of the villages in the B-H-V region drags on and on. Flemish Interior ministers Marino Keulen (VLD) refused to appoint them for the second time in succession, prompting another outburst of outrage out of the francophone parties, who predictably threatened to blow up the federal negotiations concerning the state reform, even though these appointments were not an issue on the negotiating table, as they are, in effect a regional issue. To recap the problem : these are francophone mayors who refuse to implement and adhere to Flemish regional law concerning the Flemish towns they were elected in by the francophone majority living there. The francophone parties would like to usurp these Flemish territories into the mainly francophone Brussels region, which, of course, is a serious bone of contention over here in the north.

And there you have it…

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All that isn’t well doesn’t end well and Belgium, by and large, isn’t well. Credit crunches, recessions, banks in trouble, the country still on the verge of a split and politics as usual.
I just hope I’ve managed to give a bit more insight into this enigma of a country, even if it didn’t manage to clear up anything, but rather scratch your head in bewilderment even more than before…

DR. ARF

Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons

LESSON IX : THE REGRESSION OF FLEMISH PROGRESSIVES (OR : THE PARTY THAT NEVER WAS)

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Another kartel down the tubes

Since yesterday, Wednesday the 25th of November, the death bell is tolling over the Vlaamse Progressieven (Flemish Progressives) party and its kartel with the socialists of SP-a. The party is on the verge of collapse as a result of their last party chairman, Bettina Geysen, stepping down because she is under investigation for misuse of funds when she was net manager at the national television station VRT. Ironically, she had to step away from this televisional garden, because she was in a relationship with VRT head honcho Aimé Van Hecke, raising suspicion of subjectivity. It seems everywhere she goes, Bettina raises suspicion and causes controversy and division. However, in both cases she maintains the accusations were and are unfounded. Nevertheless, she felt she should immediately step down. *In the voice of previewman Don LaFontaine* In a time, when Belgian politicians refuse to step down until proven guitly, one has to wonder why she retreated so hastily…

Vlaamse Progressieven who?

The obvious question you’re asking yourselves now is “Who the fuck are the Vlaamse Progressieven? Did we miss something in your previous posts, ARF?” Not quite.

See, when explaining to you the political landscape in all its fragmented ugliness, I failed to mention that socialist party SP-a had a kartel partner, which once upon a time was called Spirit and even before that, came to life as a ?project’ called ID 21 (Idea, ehm, 21) within the uneasy confines of de Flemish Nationalist party of yore, de Volksunie (People’s Union). Much like Vl. Pro today, the VU was split in half ideologically by the turn of the century, split between the idealists of project leader and long time party chairman Bert Anciaux, who wanted a more progressive kind of nationalism, and the ?old school’ nationalists, spearheaded by Geert Bourgeois and, ultimately, Bart De Wever. When the rift within VU was too great to keep the party going, it split into the by now well known NV-A of Bourgeois and De Wever on the one hand and ID21 on the other. Soon after the split, ID changed its name into Spirit, an equally uninspiring name for a party made up of possibly well meaning idealists, but with no political relevance or program, even if they thought they did have merit.

The person to blame here, is Bert Anciaux. A man with the burning ambition and idealistic passion of an overgrown boy scout, a lot of emotional capabilities, but alas, no political weight to speak of. Much unlike his father Vic, who helped the former VU to greater heights in the ?70’s. Anciaux, by now, is minister of Culture in the Flemish government for the second time (his first term was in the federal government) and his policies are as disastrous to the cultural sector as the Dubya Regime’s on the US of A. I’m all for idealism, but since being a musician means that the cultural policy of the Flemish and federal governments are hitting close to home, I can say I have absolutely no love for this man and wished he wouldn’t have gone beyond being a boy scout leader.
Clearly, Anciaux is a perfect example of the political dynastic succession. He inherited a sound party, managed to break it up in less than 10 years and then started a party that had no future, unless… they allied themselves with a bigger party. And as such, the alliance SP-a/Spirit was born.

The problem with Spirit being the weak brother of the alliance were manyfold : to political observers as well as anyone with half a brain, Sp-a entered into this alliance in the knowledge they would be the bigger party and would make, in essence, Spirit’s contribution null and void. Despite how they packaged it, all they really needed, were the votes that Anciaux and some of his party members could bring them, in order to win elections. Spirit, or rather Anciaux, would in turn be placated with a ministerial post and so it happened. SP-a managed to win two federal and one regional elections, the Spiritists (as they were called by the media; a rare example of well used irony and/or sarcasm) got their ministerial posts and faded into public oblivion, with the exception of their new party chairman at the time, Geert Lambert, who got more air time and copy than Anciaux, not for his political skills, but because the man wore thick lime green rimmed spectacles (I feel ?glasses’ would be too euphemistic a word to use in this case) and was so morbidly obese, his body threatened to attract its own satellite planet. Lambert now has a gastric band and looks a lot healthier, but the glasses stayed. He himself didn’t stick around as party chairman and in 2007, Spirit chose a new one, which was outsider Bettina Geysen, whom, as mentioned, was on the lookout for a new project after having been pressured to leave our national media giant with the Slovene botanically challenged acronym.

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Geert Lambert, pre- gastric band

Bettina’s first year was equally unspectacular, compared with the other years in which Spirit was absolutely invisible to the masses (possibly obscured by the immense shadows cast by Anciaux’ ego and Lambert’s physique). In order to put Spirit back on the map, she, having been well versed in this field due to her media experience, pulled a couple of marketing stunts, one of which – see pic above – was to appear dressed in a hijab (for those Islamicly challenged : a muslim headdress). She then proceeded to change Spirit’s name “as no one really remembered what it stood for”. She, and the party hot shots, chose the very unimpressive ?Vlaamse Progressieven’, in order to distinguish themselves from their socialist kartel partner.
They further wanted to distinguish themselves from SP-a, by ?speaking out more individually on the issues at hand’ and calling themselves ?left win liberals’. Sadly, only 0.6% of the Belgian – and largely Flemish – populace was interested in what Vl. Pro had to say and the party that never actually was one struggled immensely to keep its head above water in the run-up to next year’s regional elections, until Bettina resigned because of that investigation, of which she claims all charges are unfounded, but still resigned ?for the good of the party’. All the while, SP-a looked on silently, waiting to move in for the kill.

And the outcome is…

The outcome, my dear Slovene readers, is that The Party That Never Was, never will be the party which it set out to become. Last night, 68% of the party voted against being absorbed into SP-a. The absorption was Anciaux’s stance, Lambert wants to move on alone, still believing their ?left wing liberal’ policies have merit. Others came out in public, saying everyone should look each other deep in the other one’s eyes and call it a day. Sadly, political power, no matter how faint, is addictive and so Vl. Pro faces the daunting task of surviving the electional threshold of 5% next year. Lambert said they would still want to work with SP-a, but on their own terms.
Not surprisingly, SP-a chairman Caroline Gennez – the politica with the most sexy voice of all of Belgium’s politicae – stated that Vl. Pro should wake up and smell the coffee. After which Bert Anciaux and other prominents who have a stake in the Flemish government announced today, that they would keep working with SP-a, therefor directly opposing their own party’s last night’s decision. Once again, Bert Anciaux is leading the undoing of a party, but this time, it’s a party that sprang forth from his own idealism and never really got beyond that stage…

DR. ARF

Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons

Some of you might remeber me teasing Dr. Arf about continuation of his legendary series. He promised to do something about it and he delivered a day later. It was me who forgot to publish his post in – well – post-election frenzy. I’m trully sorry.

Here it is, Dr. Arf’s eight installment of Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons!!!

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LESSON VIII : YOUR VERY OWN EU BANANA MONARCHY

A quick recap

When I posted last, we – that is the nation called Belgium – were on the verge of having a government that reflected the results of the national election held on June 10th, 2007. Yves Leterme, being the clear winner, and his christian democratic party CD&V’s kartel with Flemish nationalist party NV-A, up to that point had succeeded in creating a jumble of a government with Flemish and Walloon liberals (the latter sporting their own francophone nationalist kartel partner in FDF and their Maximo Lidér and political pyromaniac Olivier Maingain) and christian democrats (headed by ?Madame Non’ Joëlle Milquet). After some intestinal and political blood letting, Leterme finally succeeded in installing a formed government around Easter. And not much else. Virtually nothing else, actually.

Where are we now?

The obvious question you’re asking yourselves now is “Why?”, possibly followed by “How is this even possible [in a country that is supposed to be a shining example of peaceful coexistence of two cultures within the EU framework]?”. And you’re not wrong if you shake your head to such a blatant display of political unwillingness to actually govern the country when consumer confidence is at an all time low and economy is in serious regress. Sometimes you wish you just had a corrupt PM to deal with instead of this mess…

Remember, the main focus of the winning parties was state reform, giving more executive power to the regional governments. This would weaken the position of the national government, creating a so called confederal system. The Walloon politicians, long time beneficiaries of Flemish ?financial solidarity’ went into a panic frenzy at the mere suggestion. Consequently sabotaging any negotiations by demanding the impossible – and banking conveniently on the fact NV-A would never agree to these demands, providing them with the perfect scapegoat to keep the sabotage process going – and at the same time turning down any demands made on the Flemish side (where the same game is being played; all’s fair in war and politics), these negotiations went nowhere. State reform was put on the back burner to allow the government to at least put on its game face, pretending to actually govern the country… which it didn’t. War hawk defence minister De Crem (CD&V) sent four (yes, FOUR) F-16 jet fighters to support the U.S. peace winning effort (sic) in Afghanistan and will send logistical forces for the fighters in the form of ground troops. And the finance minister, MR’s head honcho Didier Reynders managed to downplay the rather sizable hole in the budget. And then they went on a holiday, leaving the problem of the state reform in the hands of three royally appointed negotiators.

For some reason, these negotiators were all selected from the francophone political world, up to and including the German speaking minority, represented by their PM Karl-Heinz Lambertz, who took the opportunity to step into the media limelight on behalf of his own community, but did not come up with a solution. Neither did the other Wise Men From The South. Neither gold nor incense or myrrh and certainly no definite proposals to effectively get out of the stalemate. Just rehashed statements, diametrically opposing the agreements made between the representatives on both sides of a regional task force; the next effort for a political deus ex machina to save state reform negotiations, instigated by Flemish PM Kris Peeters (CD&V). To add insult to injury, the aforementioned Didier Reynders, who also happens to be vice PM and god in the deepest of his private thoughts (not quite a stretch for a liberal politician, as you might imagine), said last Friday that a state reform negotiation wouldn’t happen anyway until after the regional election of 2009.

This hardly came as a surprise, since Reynders had made public he was starting to campaign for these elections two weeks ago, thus effectively undermining any decision making power this non-government still had between now and those elections. Not surprisingly, NV-A cried havoc over the weekend and decided by unanimous vote that they had lost their confidence in this government and any attempts at state reform negotiations at their party congress yesterday. It seems September 21st wasn’t only the official day the leaves can start falling; façades are crumbling as well. SP.A, whom so far remained dead silent, licking their wounds while their party leaders were attending the Democratic Convention in the U.S. to see Barack Obama accepting his nomination to run (a delegation of the Flemish liberals VLD were also attending), called for the only NV-A minister in the Flemish government, Geert Bourgeois, to resign, possibly opening the way for them to step from opposition back into power regionally after having suffered a severe defeat nationally last year.

And the outcome is…

Geert Bourgeois did resign today, saying that if the trust in the government isn’t there anymore, the kartel is dead as well, which sent CD&V into a tailspin. They would lose their majority hold both nationally as well as regionally, so understandably they’re saying the kartel isn’t over just yet and they’ll get together with NV-A on Tuesday to pick up the political pieces. Both Flemish and Walloon liberals are shouting out their joy about NV-A ?showing its true colours’, as are the French socialists, but is this really a day of joy? Has the main opposing factor really gone? I’m quite certain this is not the case. FDF is still putting gasoline on the fire by demanding the Flemish suburbs of Brussel to become part of the capital (read : claiming the Flemish region surrounding Brussels as francophone in principle) and not splitting up the electoral region Brussel – Halle – Vilvoorde (which means francophone politicians can’t campaign and get votes in these Flemish suburbs anymore), as mandated by the Belgian Supreme Court, since not splitting the electoral region is unconstitutional. Of course, losing such an electorate potential by splitting the region is a severe blow to the Walloon politicians, not to mention it undermines any claims for usurping the suburbs into the largely francophone Brussel. It’s a political hot potato they are willing to keep dishing up and blatantly ignoring the country’s constitution for.

To my mind, if politicians want their constituents to adhere to the law, they should lead by example. Clearly, when their political power is at stake, they’re willing to ignore that, not surprisingly. When push comes to shove, there is no respect for either the constitution or that part of the Belgian people and their territory that is not their own. So to my mind, it’s not just NV-A who’s been throwing a spanner in the works all this time, well over fifteen months now. The end result of all this political manvoeuvering is a further disintegration of the Belgian nation and constituents on both sides of the language barrier who are growing tired of it all. In the words of the late Jim Morrison : the future’s uncertain and the end is always near…

DR. ARF

Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else ) In Ten Easy Lessons

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. 😉

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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. :mrgreen: 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…

Dr. ARF