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



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.

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…


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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

2 thoughts on “Belgium Explained To Slovenes (And Whoever Else) In Ten Easy Lessons”

  1. My take on Rupel? Well, you said it : same ole, same ole. It’s about politicians wheeling and dealing. I know P. was more than a bit shocked about Pahor saying one thing and then doing the exact reverse, but at the end of the day, that is what politicians do. The only thing one can theorize about is the reason for it (just like P. ended his addendum : “Why?”). At first glance, it seemed as if Rupel had a snow ball’s chance in hell to get appointed to any kind of position. Out with the old, in with the new, you know? However, the man seems to have more political lives than a full litter of kittens, including their mum and dad. And so, one is left with just that one question : what prompted Borut Pahor to appoint Dimitrij Rupel as special envoy for foreign relations, given his – gathering from what I found out about the man on this blog – gross incompetence to fulfill such a post in a manner representing Slovenija internationally in a positive light? In light of Rupel’s past dealings and his firm statement only hours before, what was it that prompted Borut Pahor to appoint Rupel? What reason did he have? That’s what I would like to know, and I think I’m not the only one. Because apparently, no one saw this one coming.

    Like Anciaux is not a party animal (in the political sense), but rather and Anciauxist – these words come from the weekly blog of respectable politicologist Carl Devos, professor at the Gent University, who came to the same kind of conclusion – albeit rather more eloquent and insightful – as I did in this post of mine (and in the continuing chapter about Anciaux in my to be published last post), so Rupel is a Rupelian. Rupel only looks out for Rupel and it doesn’t seem matter what means he must use to do so, or to what lenghts he’ll go in order to get what he wants. The only thing that separates the two, apart from political ideologies and different countries, is the fact that Anciaux really makes himself believe that he’s doing this for the good of mankind, while Rupel isn’t hindered by any kind of conscience, it seems. Rupel seemingly has no scruples; Anciaux uses his to justify himself. Once again, you said, it, chère collègue : same old same old…

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