“French-speakers are more inclined to work with the N-VA now. It is a Vivaldi party that some are trying to dismiss today”

“French-speakers are more inclined to work with the N-VA now. It is a Vivaldi party that some are trying to dismiss today”
“French-speakers are more inclined to work with the N-VA now. It is a Vivaldi party that some are trying to dismiss today”

Tinne Van der Straeten said she was going to file a complaint against Georges-Louis Bouchez following his accusations regarding the nuclear phase-out. Have the Greens and Liberals reached a point of no return?

We are in the countryside. Everyone is looking to be in the spotlight a little bit. It is very clear that Georges-Louis Bouchez, who constantly seeks attention, uses the nuclear issue to place himself at the center of the debate and to reiterate that it is thanks to him that we changed direction. We saw that Tinne Van der Straeten used the same communication strategy as the president of the Liberals and took advantage of it to have a little visibility. And it worked. Groen was able to profile itself as the party of serious, constructive and positive politics in the face of Bouchez, whom they accuse of only putting obstacles in the way, of sabotaging, of playing politics like a brute.

The Flemish ecologist nevertheless affirmed that she no longer wished to collaborate with the MR within a government, following this affair…

In part, these are campaign words. On election day, everyone becomes a virgin again. We enter a different world. However, here it goes further. This also reflects a real break between environmentalists and Bouchez. It is clear that there is a real issue behind this issue. This affair reflects a significant division that we experienced within Vivaldi for five years between the MR and the Greens. The nuclear issue gave rise to a lot of very harsh and polarizing communication during the legislature in a context of permanent campaign. So while we are really in the campaign now, we have to add a layer and we arrive at parliamentary commissions and legal complaints.

However, some like Bart De Wever believe that the only desire of all these parties is to form a Vivaldi II at the end of the June 9 election. What about it?

This is Bart De Wever’s campaign. This is completely ridiculous! De Wever wants to present the N-VA as the only bulwark against a renewal of Vivaldi which is already being negotiated. It makes sense that he would want to communicate like that, but it’s completely wrong. When De Wever says “it’s the N-VA or the Vivaldi II”, I would tend to answer that it will indeed be a Vivaldi II but then with the N-VA inside. It will be, as with Vivaldi, a government with many parties and many colors. And the N-VA will probably be part of it. Obviously, we will no longer call it the Vivaldi because that would not be possible for Bart De Wever. But it is one of the avenues that seems most credible to me in the aftermath of June 9.

For the MR, environmentalists are the target to be killed in this electoral campaign (as usual)

Are French speakers more inclined to work with Flemish nationalists than in 2019?

Few parties still want to exclude the N-VA from the French-speaking side. This is the big difference with the previous election. Within the PS, we have already negotiated with the nationalists in 2020, so there is a certain openness. On the other hand, another party is now the subject of exclusives. Indeed, there is a certain desire to do without the Greens on the side of the MR, the CD&V and also the Open Vld. Particularly because of the nuclear issue, but also the migration issue. The ecologists are the only Flemish party to still hold a classic progressive discourse. All other formations have evolved. On the climate too, the Greens are increasingly isolated. Both the socialists and the PTB/PVDA are now qualifying their speech by saying that the social aspect must take precedence. We also see it on the French-speaking side and in particular in Brussels where the PS focuses on a Muslim electorate who is not a fan of soft mobility.

We saw Alexander De Croo come to the rescue of Tinne Van der Straeten And contradict his liberal colleague Georges-Louis Bouchez. Isn’t that amazing?

In itself, it is not illogical for Alexander De Croo to defend Tinne Van der Straeten since Bouchez’s attack called into question government policy in general. As Prime Minister, it is normal for him to reframe it. At the same time, a few weeks ago, he thanked Georges-Louis Bouchez for having made it possible to return to the phase-out of nuclear power. In any case, it is clear that relations between MR and Open VLD – and in particular between Bouchez and De Croo – have not been very good during this legislature. The president of the MR helped to undermine the government and therefore to undermine the Prime Minister. In addition, by constantly appearing in the Flemish media, saying that the De Croo government was making the wrong decisions, he reinforced Bart De Wever’s speech which went in the same direction and which hurt De Croo. So I can understand that De Croo was not always enthusiastic about Bouchez’s behavior and communication.

Is the liberal family alliance therefore fragile?

Recently, for strategic reasons, they renewed their alliance, but it is clear that there have been tensions. Liberal mutual aid can be of use to both the Open Vld and the MR. But we will have to see how long this lasts. Negotiations on the joint list in Brussels were not easy and dragged on. The place of Alexia Bertrand was discussed at length. His case has not helped relations between the two parties.

Vooruit issued a condition for his rise to power: only if we provide a free healthy meal at primary school. Is it surprising to see the party adopt such a strong position on the subject?

Yes. But the conditions for gaining power no longer generally exist the day after the election. In the previous elections, Vooruit and the PS had said that they would not join a government if we did not reduce the pension to 65 years old. At the time of the negotiations, they didn’t talk about it anymore because they knew it wouldn’t happen. So you have to be a little skeptical about this type of statement.

As this concerns education, we are talking about the Flemish government here. And whatever Vooruit says, he will be present in the executive anyway. Unless Vlaams Belang comes to power. But we know very well that there is already a sort of implicit agreement between N-VA and Vooruit with a view to the formation of a Flemish government.

We should therefore not see this as a way for the Flemish socialists to place an exclusive position vis-à-vis the CD&V or the N-VA, who are against this measure…

No. In any case, we will not be able to form a Flemish government without the N-VA. Moreover, in 2019, Vooruit preferred the N-VA to Groen. Conner Rousseau made a lot of effort to be the matchmaker between Bart De Wever and Paul Magnette. That was his goal, but it didn’t work. Relations between environmentalists and socialists in Flanders are worse than ever. So much so that in Antwerp, the two parties are not allying even though logic would dictate that they form a common list to obtain the mayorate and, at least, have more influence against the N-VA.

When we compare the proposals of the different parties, a coalition seems natural in Wallonia: the one nicknamed “the FGTB”, bringing together the PS, Ecolo and the PTB. Could socialists and ecologists rise to power with the far left?

Perhaps the question should be reversed. Does the PTB want to come to power? So far, the answer is no, in my opinion. In any case, in 2019, it was very clear that he did not want to join a government. The Vlaams Blok has long adopted this behavior. But Vlaams Belang is currently in a completely different strategy. Already in 2019, he really wanted to come to power. He tries to break the sanitary cordon that surrounds him. While the PTB erects a cordon santé around it. Raoul Hedebouw’s party does not want to come to power. Ironically, it has more possibilities of entering a government than the Vlaams Belang. The PS and Ecolo are not necessarily opposed to collaborating with the PTB. They even tried in 2019. They might do it again. Perhaps to force them to leave the opposition and show that simplistic speeches do not work once in power. But it should also be noted that basically, quite a few socialists and ecologists would prefer to ally themselves with the far left, if they had to choose between MR and PTB.

The PTB and the PS discussed during previous elections in Wallonia, but the negotiations were unsuccessful ©BELGA

When Raoul Hedebouw said, again this Wednesday morning, on LN24that he is ready to enter a governmentYou do not believe it ?

I’m not in his head. A party’s strategy can evolve. But so far, he has not shown any signs of this. In 2019, the party’s strategy was very clearly not to rise to power. I have the impression that Raoul Hedebouw’s remarks are above all a way of countering the typical speech of the PS, which constantly reminds us that the PTB does not want to take its responsibilities. It makes sense that the president of the far-left party would say that this is false. But that doesn’t prove that he will make his statements come true after June 9. However, we cannot rule it out. This would be an important strategic turning point. At the same time, the current budgetary context does not seem to be the most conducive to a rise to power for the PTB. The situation, particularly in the south of the country, is quite catastrophic. We are moving towards new European budgetary rules, where Belgium risks being heavily sanctioned. You will still have to make some savings.

Raoul Hedebouw nevertheless regretted that his party was being placed on the same footing as Vlaams Belang and that some were talking about a cordon santé which would also apply to the PTB…

There are two dimensions to the sanitary cordon which applies to Vlaams Belang. First of all, there is the fact that it is a racist party, which advocates discrimination, which does not respect certain points of the declaration of human rights. At this level, we cannot say that Vlaams Belang and the PTB are similar. We do not find, in the program of the extreme left, proposals which are discriminatory against part of the population. On the other hand, the other dimension of the cordon santé, which targets the fact that Vlaams Belang is an undemocratic party, can be applied to the PTB. Vlaams Belang is accused of having authoritarian tendencies, of having sympathies for dictatorial regimes of the past or other countries. We therefore find similarities with the PTB, which for a very long time supported Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot… It is true that they officially abandoned these tendencies in 2008 but even today their position on China remains particular. This antidemocratic tendency is very present in the history of Vlaams Belang and the PTB.

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