We use cookies to help improve and maintain our site. More information.
close

June 07, 2019

Keep looking, gentlemen, said the King

The task to form a Belgian government coalition is turning out to be another extraordinarily difficult process, with some parallels to the infamous 500-day impasse of eight years ago. Didier Reynders and Johan Vande Lanotte, the two informateurs charged by King Philippe of Belgium with exploring the options for a government coalition, have had no success so far. If Vande Lanotte and Reynders fail to come up with the goods, new informateurs would likely be appointed. But we are not there yet.

Reynders warned against complacency yesterday, pointing to the fact that Belgium had now a caretaker minority government that had been toppled months before the election, with a political make up utterly out of synch with any conceivable new ruling coalition. It would not be a good idea for this unstable situation to go on for another 500 days.

The problem is that it might. Brussels and Wallonia have moved to the left, Flanders to the right, and the formation of a federal government might founder on the alliances at regional level. The Flemish N-VA these days sounds almost moderate in comparison to the extremist Vlaams Belang. The VB is a party whose old and young membership is rife with tolerance or worse for Nazi collaborators, and revisionist post-nazi nostalgics are no oddity there. The VB is also seeking to participate in the Flemish government, ending decades of isolation.

Bart De Wever, the N-VA chief, has agreed to hold talks with its far-right rival, and the King has ended decades of boycott by receiving the smooth and youthful VB leader Tom De Grieken into the palace. De Wever, according to Flemish media, is desperate for the talks to founder on some VB outrageousness. De Grieken is equally keen for this not to happen. So the N-VA is playing for time, hoping that a VB backbencher or elder politician will send the party back into the wilderness. Meanwhile, left-wing rhetoric and leftist green politics are enjoying a revival in the south. We do not expect Belgium to fall apart – there is no appetite for Catalan-style turmoil. But neither do we expect a new federal government soon.

Thomas Klau writes: On the face of it, the rise of the far right in Flanders is a bit of a mystery. The region's economy is doing well, and the days when the Flemish had to learn to speak and write French to move up in the world, or serve the needs of snotty Walloons, are unforgotten but over. And yet the discussion about how could this possibly have happened is less lively in Flanders than one might have expected – and this absence itself gives us part of the answer.

'Vlaams Belang leader Tom de Grieken is so nice, good looking and polite; and then Filip Dewinter, the party's elder statesman: his house is immaculate, his garden tidy, he looks like the reliable neighbour many a Flemish citizen would love to give a spare set of house-keys to. Yes, he did say that he would have failed as father if one of his daughters chose a man of colour as the man she wants to marry. But then has he not emphatically denied this was racism, just common-sense concern for his daughter's well-being? After all, marriage is difficult enough anyway, and when there is too much difference, the problems just pile up, who can deny it?'

Genuine outrage over the far-right in Flanders has become, and perhaps always has been, the domain of a minority. The De Griekens and Dewinters, their positions may sound harsh to many even in Flanders, but no matter: mainstream Flanders still considers them part of a hard-working, perennially embattled but proud Flemish 'us'.

Show Comments Write a Comment

June 07, 2019

Message from Peterborough

Labour won the Peterborough by-election by the thinest of margins - a few hundred votes - followed closely by the Brexit Party. The Tories were in a distant third place. The result will serve as a useful reminder for the Tories of the Brexit party’s destructive potential. Labour won the seat despite a loss of 16pp compared to the previous election. Farage managed to split the conservative wing into two, thus handing Labour what would otherwise have been an easy win for the Tories given the circumstances in which the by-election took place. Forget all the complacent talk about Farage never having won a seat for himself at a general election. This totally misses the point of what is happening in British politics right now. Even if the Brexit Party were only able to secure a small number of seats, it would still have the potential to wipe out the Tories. First-past-the-post systems leverage small political swings into huge re-distributions of seats.

The by-election will serve as yet another reminder to the Tories that they are facing a straight trade-off between political extinction and a Halloween Brexit. The UK’s political class spent the long hours ahead of the Peterborough results discussing the mechanics of a no-deal Brexit, concluding that it is not possible or realistic for a PM to prorogue parliament - the theoretical ability to suspend the House of Commons in late October. We think the main effect of this debate has been to isolate Dominic Raab, the most extreme of the pro-Brexit candidates. Moderate Tories now support Boris Johnson - just savour this statement for a moment. The contest is his to lose.

There are two scenarios that could lead to new elections. The first is a no-confidence vote that Labour said it will deliver when the new government is installed. The second would be a decision by Johnson to call elections - subject to the usual parliamentary procedures - to gain a majority for his own Brexit strategy. 

For the moment Johnson has positioned himself in the right spot: an absolute commitment to the Oct 31 leaving date, together with a willingness to compromise on an agreement. There exists no viable strategy for the Tories away from this finely calibrated line.

Show Comments Write a Comment

June 07, 2019

The decline of the grand coalition is accelerating

We promise not to give you a daily account of German opinion polls, but the current shifts are extraordinary. Our prediction that the grand coalition would be a disaster for both SPD and CDU/CSU has over-fulfilled itself. Over the weekend, an Insa opinion poll put the Greens ahead of the CDU/CSU for the first time. Insa is a polling organisation that registers shifts faster than others, but sometimes overdoes it. Last night, Tagesschau reported the much more stable ARD-Deutschlandtrend, the grand-daddy of German opinion polling, which came to an even more dramatic conclusion. Not only are the Greens ahead of CDU/CSU. The AfD is ahead of the SPD, too. Both coalition partners are at their lowest-ever ratings, polling a joint 37%. 

But perhaps the two most interesting parts are not the headline numbers but the answer to two other questions: do the parties have answers for the future? The Greens score close to their overall poll rating, while the CDU/CSU’s number is 12% and the SPD’s is 2%. The second important part is the collapse in support for AKK, the CDU's new leader.

The reason we are mentioning this poll is that it will increase the pressure for an early end of the grand coalition. The SPD has no leadership at the moment, and seems to be in no hurry to get one. But neither has the CDU. The fall in the CDU/CSU rating is also a reflection of AKK's standing. If you contrast the wooden CDU leader with the professional team in charge of the Green Party, there is simply no competition. Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck, the joint Green leaders, have managed to turn a relative small party with stable support into a Volkspartei within two years. The strategic question for the coalition partners will be whether they are better off pulling the plug now, or waiting. Neither has a winning strategy in place right now, which tells us that they might be waiting. But the longer they wait, the worse it will get. 

Show Comments Write a Comment

This is the public section of the Eurointelligence Professional Briefing, which focuses on the geopolitical aspects of our news coverage. It appears daily at 2pm CET. The full briefing, which appears at 9am CET, is only available to subscribers. Please click here for a free trial, and here for the Eurointelligence home page.

 

Recent News

  • January 06, 2020
  • A decade that started with a bang
  • What to expect of Spain's next government
  • Divide et impera: Macron's pension reform strategy
  • January 29, 2019
  • What comes after plan B fails? Plan C, of course. C for cliff-edge
  • Gilets jaunes, how to structure a movement in free flow?
  • European Court of Auditors criticises Juncker’s investment fund
  • February 26, 2018
  • Angela Merkel's cabinet
  • March 27, 2017
  • Governing formation troubles - Northern Ireland edition
  • Did Trump present Merkel with a bill for Nato?
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • September 23, 2019
  • Corbyn’s last big battle
  • Germany’s CO2 compromise meets all targets - except the climate targets
  • November 13, 2018
  • Peak Salvini?
  • Protest uberisation
  • January 05, 2018
  • Catalonia's government by Skype
  • The case for EEA membership
  • February 28, 2017
  • Is Hamon losing the right wing of his party?
  • Something we just don’t understand
  • Solve the problem
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • March 11, 2020
  • While Italy is in lockdown, Germany allows football matches
  • Ireland grand coalition
  • May 31, 2019
  • Salvini’s frightening strength
  • The significance of Corbyn’s latest flipflop on the referendum
  • August 20, 2018
  • ... and a subtle shift in EU policies towards both Russia and Turkey
  • Nothing to celebrate about the end of the bailout programme
  • Support for Brexit holding up
  • November 09, 2017
  • From street protests to road closures
  • What Russia wants
  • January 31, 2017
  • Project fear against Italexit
  • On how not to frustrate Brexit
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • October 17, 2019
  • A dangerous game for the EU
  • After Brexit, get ready for a German EU budget rebate
  • February 04, 2019
  • Watch out for the resurgence in Tory unity
  • The gilets-jaunes' effect on the European elections
  • What did he possibly mean by that?
  • May 25, 2018
  • Rejected by US, Germany is turning towards China...
  • ...and France is turning to Russia
  • UK ties Galileo to security partnership
  • Germans are discovering miniBoTs
  • September 14, 2017
  • Bravo Mr Juncker
  • ... what he said about the labour market
  • ... and what his speech means for Brexit
  • January 05, 2017
  • French Socialist primaries - old wine in new bottles
  • Le Pen's hard ecu
  • Will Tusk get a second mandate?
  • Themes of 2017
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • December 02, 2019
  • Will pension reform protests spiral out of control?
  • Malta's PM resigns over murder case
  • April 24, 2019
  • May's final and biggest gamble
  • Will the EP be Brexit's great parliamentary beneficiary?
  • Can Loiseau fight the far right given her past?
  • September 12, 2018
  • It is easy to criticise Chequers but very hard to come up with an alternative
  • February 05, 2018
  • How big is Germany's external surplus, really?
  • Macron's first election test
  • Coeure's endorsement of a fiscal union
  • July 03, 2017
  • Can Greece exit its programme without a credit line?
  • The softening Brexit
  • Macron's state of the nation address
  • November 28, 2016
  • And now what Monsieur Fillion?
  • The inescapable logic of an interim agreement
  • On Germany's foreign policy post-Trump
  • How to lose against the populists
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • March 16, 2020
  • Why many of the Covid-19 statistics are misleading
  • September 17, 2019
  • Beware of the diplomacy of humiliation
  • Germany’s climate hypocrisy
  • March 18, 2019
  • May's deal still on the table. Don't rule it out.
  • EPP decision on Fidesz still open
  • On the defeat of liberalism
  • September 21, 2018
  • SPD ministers want to continue grand coalition
  • March 28, 2018
  • The real reason for the sanctions against Russia
  • Wishful thinking: Brexit edition
  • Wishful thinking: Future of euro edition
  • Wishful thinking: Italy edition
  • October 02, 2017
  • Catalonia recalls EU and eurozone instability
  • French trade unions increase pressure over labour reforms
  • Watch out for a political accident in the UK
  • Municipal elections boost Portugal's Socialists
  • April 10, 2017
  • Nein, nein, nein, und nein
  • Sounds like a bad Brexit story, but ain’t
  • On how not to exit the euro
  • October 17, 2016
  • Ceta is dead for now
  • L’après-Hollande, c'est Hollande
  • SPD against Russia sanctions
  • Nissan to join customs union and other fanciful tales
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • January 24, 2020
  • Is Germany anti-semitic and racist?
  • Did the Greek financial crisis play a role in Brexit?
  • September 18, 2019
  • No doubt, this is a constitutional crisis
  • Macron's immigration bid
  • May 13, 2019
  • Brexit Party has already changed UK politics
  • Orbán visits Trump, after a very long wait
  • Le Pen's appeal to the PiS likely to fall on deaf ears
  • January 04, 2019
  • Will the AfD become the Dexit party?
  • Romania's corruption problem in the spotlight of its EU presidency
  • August 28, 2018
  • Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
  • How anti-semitism became one of the main issues in British politics
  • April 25, 2018
  • Macron's pitch to Trump
  • Montoro in Schleswig-Holstein
  • The old world and the new
  • December 22, 2017
  • Will Macron be the new de Gaulle?
  • 2018 through the looking glass
  • August 21, 2017
  • Soft, getting softer
  • Tsipras' chances of a boost
  • On the fallacy of a middle-ground option for the eurozone
  • April 20, 2017
  • Don’t bet on Trump turning globalist
  • A note on UK election polls
  • December 20, 2016
  • The politics of terror
  • On Lagarde
  • Is a disruptive Brexit possible?
  • August 22, 2016
  • Gold for Brexit
  • EU and Turkey talking past each other
  • Switzerland is the next migrant transit country
  • On the death of neoliberal economics
  • April 25, 2016
  • The death of the Grand Coalition
  • Insurrection against TTIP
  • Juppé to benefit from Macron hype
  • On optimal currency areas
  • Why the Artic region could be the next geopolitical troublespot
  • From a currency to a people
  • May 19, 2020
  • Beware of China's rising influence
  • April 24, 2020
  • Thinking through the details of a recovery fund
  • April 01, 2020
  • Stats with bad numbers
  • March 09, 2020
  • Lockdown measures are not working
  • Will the ceasefire hold in Idlib?
  • February 17, 2020
  • Security issues we should be discussing
  • Salvini has changed his mind on the euro - yet again
  • January 27, 2020
  • How the left lays the ground for Le Pen
  • Project Fear - Irish Edition
  • January 06, 2020
  • A decade that started with a bang
  • What to expect of Spain's next government
  • Divide et impera: Macron's pension reform strategy
  • December 13, 2019
  • EU climate disagreement overshadows budget
  • House of Representatives approves law to sanction NordStream 2
  • November 25, 2019
  • Twenty years on - and less safe than ever
  • Philippe's last round of talks ahead of strike actions
  • November 06, 2019
  • Could the German coalition fall over the basis minimum pension? Quite possibly.
  • Philippe to present new immigration policies
  • The sharp edge of soft power
  • October 22, 2019
  • High stake poker with Turkey
  • Without EU accession prospect, what is at stake for Macedonia?
  • October 07, 2019
  • What did Conte know?
  • September 23, 2019
  • Corbyn’s last big battle
  • Germany’s CO2 compromise meets all targets - except the climate targets
  • September 09, 2019
  • Chances of no-deal are rising and rising
  • Resist the beginnings
  • August 27, 2019
  • Remain’s narrowing pathway
  • Macron's diplomatic masterstroke
  • August 02, 2019
  • A useful object lesson of what can go wrong for Johnson
  • Maréchal - a rising star on the French right?
  • Could Steve re-ignite the gilets jaunes?
  • July 23, 2019
  • When Europe lacks a strategy
  • LibDems are back, but British liberalism is not
  • July 15, 2019
  • No queues in Berlin for von der Leyen’s succession
  • Mitsotakis moves fast with tax bill
  • The feel-good factor in the pre-Brexit days
  • July 08, 2019
  • Instex, forever around the corner?
  • Why Rory Stewart is not really what Remainers should be looking for
  • July 01, 2019
  • The questions we will be asking tomorrow
  • What category of diplomatic accidents is Sea Watch 3?
  • June 25, 2019
  • What’s behind the dispute about Weber
  • June 21, 2019
  • No appetite for extension
  • Macron and Ciudadanos - an unholy alliance?
  • June 18, 2019
  • Retaliation threats over drilling
  • June 12, 2019
  • What Spain wants from the EU
  • What to focus on in the Brexit procedure, and what not
  • June 10, 2019
  • How to create Brexit facts
  • The new Alde is already in trouble
  • June 07, 2019
  • Keep looking, gentlemen, said the King
  • Message from Peterborough
  • The decline of the grand coalition is accelerating