For socialists Vooruit, MR leader is an obstacle to federal government formation

Last Sunday, MR leader Georges-Louis Bouchez clocked up just under 30 per cent of the votes with his right-liberal party MR in Wallonia, leaving the socialist PS in its wake. With the centrists of Les Engagés, Bouchez is already forging Walloon governments. At the federal level, too, a coalition with N-VA, MR, Les Engagés, Vooruit and CD&V seems to be the most viable option. But while N-VA is pleased at the prospect, the Flemish socialists Vooruit are less enthusiastic.

The idea of being the only left-wing party in a centre-right cabinet raises doubts among Flemish socialists. Ideally, Vooruit would not break ties with sister party PS, but leader Paul Magnette is opting for opposition after his defeat in Wallonia. Vooruit, therefore, is playing hard to get. Political timidness and ideological contradictions complicate the negotiations even further, and there are personal clashes too. 

In an interview with De Tijd on Saturday, Vooruit leader Melissa Depraetere criticised Bouchez, calling him "completely untrustworthy" as he was the bugbear of the government in which his own party participated. He did not take a ministerial position, which left him free him to criticise the Vivaldi government led by Alexander De Croo of Flemish liberals Open VLD. 

This did not make him popular in Flanders. "I don't like vetoing individuals, but it would be better for him to become minister president of Wallonia. Then we will be rid of him. And then he would not have to learn Dutch," Depraetere told De Tijd. Bouchez himself, however, hinted after the elections in rather conciliatory language that a federal government with Vooruit would be the best option given the election results.

Bouchez may be a controversial politician who is unpopular in Flanders, but his party cannot be ignored. On the issues of social security and taxation, Vooruit, with the Christian democrats, is likely to be on the opposite side of MR and N-VA. Equally, issues such as healthcare and benefits will cause headaches during the negotiations. 


MR leader Georges-Louis Bouchez © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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