Sunday, August 19, 2007

Power, or not Power ?

What Price are you willing to pay ?

When you want to get to a concert, you have to pay, when you want to go somewhere far away, you have to pay. When you want to have power, you have to pay.

The one thing you usually focus on in these moments, is the price.

But what if you want something really badly? What if you want it no matter what?

This is the situation we’re watching unfold in Belgium. It’s been more than 60 days since the elections, and we’re still very far away from getting a government deal. The “government shaper” (or head of the negotiations process designated by the king according to rules which bind the king’s hands) we have is not working for Belgium, he’s working for Flanders (he is the former president of the Flanders region, and the ex president of a Christian and Nationalist alliance of political parties).

On the Flemish side, the two parties negotiating have very clear demands for more independence, their program looking more like a tearing down of the Belgian state than like a path for everyone working together toward a common goal. They can be seen as working hand in hand.

On the Walloon side, we have the two “sibling” parties of their Flemish counterparts. One, the MR, wants power. It wants it with such greed and avidity, that it’s pushing, rushing, delivering somber warnings to its would-be Walloon partner. The MR’s president, Mr Reynders, is so engrossed with the prospect of reaching power inside a coalition without the Socialists—a coalition which would give him free reign at last to unravel our welfare system and our way of life, a coalition in which there would be no counterpart sufficiently powerful to thwart his moves and alert the public opinion—that he’s standing on the verge of yielding to the outrageous demands of the Flemish parties.

And to obtain this, Mr Reynders must somehow force the other Walloon party to yield as well, to bow down to absurd demands which mean nothing more than the end of Belgium. To understand what’s going on, you need to know that the fundamental changes in the workings of the Belgian state demanded by the Flemish parties cannot be voted by a simple majority in the Assembly. These changes demand a change of the Belgian Constitution, and thus demand a special majority of 2/3rd of the Assembly.

This special majority can be achieved with the two Walloon parties vying for power, and with a union of all the Flemish parties (who wouldn’t hesitate to unite, as they all share nationalist and selfish elements). But to achieve such a majority, composed of more Flemish allies than Walloon, would mean to tear down all the unspoken rules that keep Belgium together. It would be what we call an “institutional bomb”, which might herald the true end of our country. It would never be accepted in Wallonia, on the French-speaking part of Belgium, and any party which would take part in such a scheme would suffer heavily for its betrayal of its voters in the next elections.

The second Walloon party knows this, and thus it’s balking, and refusing to yield—not to mention that it is far from sharing all of Mr Reynders’ dreams of destroying our social security system and welfare state.

And so, all the Flemish parties, as well as the Flemish media, are calling the second Walloon party an obstacle, a chicken, and are demanding that it yields and accepts to swallow the fish.

Of course, at this point, you’re wondering what’s going on through the MR party. You’re wondering whether Mr Reynders hasn’t taken leave of his senses, and you’re thinking that he too, would have to face the next elections, and the rebuff of the voters. But it’s not so easy. Mr Reynders is contemplating twisted ways out, like cajoling one of the smaller parties, the Walloon ecologist party, into voting with the majority on these aspects. Mr Reynders is so famished for power, a power he wouldn’t have to share with the Socialists, that he’s willing to stoop so low as it takes. He’s already doing so, hinting at the second Walloon party’s “squeamishness” at its “lack of courage and willingness to enter a government”.

He’s already doing so, playing dangerously close to what amounts to betraying all the French-speaking population. And I have no doubt he’s ready to step beyond the line and go all the way.

So here I stand, watching the news, analyzing and hoping that the second Walloon party will not be intimated, and will hang in there.

Here I stand, hoping that all the political parties in Wallonia, Socialists and ecologists alike, will not land their power and their representatives’ votes to help destroy Belgium.

Here I stand, hoping that Mr Reynders will fail, hoping that Mr Leterme will be forced to resign, and that the king will be free to name a true man of stature to shape a government. A government which cannot be limited to only the MR and the CDH, not if it is to be balanced with the Flemish side. No, this government must include the Socialist party, if Belgium is to survive. If our welfare state and its social security system are to survive. There is no other way.

And some prices are not worth paying, even if it’s to gain power.


Anonymous said...

well, when you say this sentence:

the Flemish parties (who wouldn’t hesitate to unite, as they all share nationalist and selfish elements..

it simply means,if they all share this, they just dont want to stay together anymore...just that, nothing more, so why would anyone fight to keep it together now... all my life i didnt want to break up belgium, but now i think it's time to start seeing things clearly... when you have a people that just dont want to stay together there's nothing more anyone can do..and i'm tired of it, all my life we concentrate in belgium on holding together energy and for what... nothing gets better like this..maybe it really is time. and get focused on other thing. Belgium is dead. if it isnt now, it is in some years, better do it quickly.

Fuu-chan said...

I'm not necessarily opposed to drawing the final conclusion on this Belgium adventure. I'd find this really sad, and it would be the proof that selfishness and pettiness prevail over nobler sentiments. It would bode ill for a political Europe.

But, if it must be done, let it be so. However, before doing so, we will have to plan ahead. To know what we want to do. We will have to examine options.

And we will have to come clean with the bill of Belgium. And that is going to be one hell of a mighty battle. Because I am very much certain that the Flemish nationalists are those who will refuse to take into consideration all the years during which prosperity was on the side of Wallonia... And splitting off in an unfair fashion is something that nobody in his or her right mind can accept.

One thing is for sure: I will never, ever want to be a citizen of Sarkoland!