Thursday, June 14, 2007


In line with what's happening in the rest of Europe, Belgium's voters shifted to the right. Or at least, away from the left. The ruling coalition of liberals and socialists suffered huge blows to the extent that the PM, Guy Verhofstadt, of the liberal VLD party, could definitely abandon his plans for a third term and the socialist candidate for the top job, Johan Vandelanotte, who was also party chairman, resigned brusquely and clearly depressed, leaving party HQ in disarray.

Yves Leterme, Belgium's next PM?The big winners of the Sunday, June 10 elections are however not the Vlaams Belang in Flanders, nor the Front National in Wallonia. Instead, in Flanders the Christian Democrats (CD&V) of Yves Leterme, who is also Minister-President of the Flemish Region, won big, while in Wallonia - and this is extraordinary - the center-right Mouvement Réformateur (MR) of federal Finance Minister Didier Reynders finally de-throned the Parti Socialiste as Wallonia's biggest Party. The success of the Christian Democrats in Flanders is remarkable, given the fact that the grand majority of Flemings do not attend church anymore. Personally, I suspect that after eight years Verhofstadt, whereby the latter's once grandiose visions for a model state all too quickly watered down to a nightmare of even more pork barrel spending, spiced with gay marriage, gay adoption, municipal voting rights for non-Belgians, dhimmitude vis-à-vis an ever more radicalizing muslim community, and steeply rising criminiality, people just had enough of it. But instead of opting for the VB, many Flemings, perhaps not surprisingly, chose for the more boring alternative.

Belgian federal elections - results for Flanders

The results for Flanders: big wins for the opposition party CD & V (Christian Democrats, first pillar from the left), a slight win for the VB (second pillar from the left), heavy losses for the ruling liberals (third pillar) and socialists (fourh pillar), sudden emergence of breakaway rightwing party LDD (fifth pillar, light blue), Green nutters (last pillar) winning a bit. If not a shift to the right, definitely a shift away from the left.

Noteworthy too is the sudden rise of a small breakaway rightwing party from the liberal VLD. This LDD party, for Lijst De Decker, which secured in Flanders some 7% of the vote, seems to have attracted most of the malcontent "dark blue" liberals of the VLD, who could not stomach anymore how their once great party - I myself was a VLD member till 2004 - had become nearly indistinguishable from the socialists.

In light of the shift towards the centrist Christian Democrats and the sudden appearance of the rightwing LDD (rightwing only with regards to economics, ethically it has a "progressive" agenda, it is perhaps surprising that the VB still stood its own, and even gained 1.1% as compared to the previous parliamentary elections. Given the peculiarities of the Belgian voting system this will however not translate in another seat in Parliament, to the contrary, the VB loses one, from 18 seats to 17. By contrast, the Christian Democrats now have 30 seats in the 150-seat Kamer (Lower House).

To sum it all up, there IS a rightwing shift in Belgium, both in Flanders and Wallonia. In Wallonia, the loss of the Parti Socialiste the "Party of 1,000,000 scandals" - and its being second now cannot be underestimated. Theoretically, in Flanders a rightwing family, a "Forza Flandria", is possible between CD&V, LDD and VB. It won't happen though, because the Christian Democrats hold onto the vile concept of the cordon sanitaire, a nineties vow of the so-called "democratic" parties never to cooperate with the VB, as if it was some leper colony - keep in mind that the VB programme is as clean as the GOP's, and extremely similar. No, the most likely outcome for a federal government is a minority government of Christian Democrats with ... some of the losers of the June 10 elections, the Flemish Liberals of the VLD. The federal government's coalition would then encompass CD & V and VLD (Christian Democrats and Liberals on the Flemish side) and CDH and MR (the same, but on the Wallonian side). Most likely choice for Prime Minister would be Yves Leterme. This does not have to be a bad thing in se. The eighties saw just such a coalition, from 1981 till 1987, and it performed quite well. Actually, the Budget Minister in that period was... Guy Verhofstadt, who succeeded in a remarkable two-year stint to dramatically reduce a severe budget deficit. For this, he was rewarded with his ousting by a powerful Union Leader - in those days, Unions decided Belgian politics. Today, their influence has a little waned however, and the next government eighties style may perform even better. Pieter De Crem, coming man of the Flemish Christian DemocratsInternationally, Belgium may (finally) follow the rest of the European countries in abandoning the virulent anti-Americanism so characteristic for European politics only three years ago. Gradually, European voters turn away from socialism, and with their departure a new era of cooperation with the US becomes possible. In this light, it is perhaps telling that the second man of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Pieter De Crem, has, shortly before the elections, spoken out in favor of "more risky operations" for the Belgian Army. This may very well be interpreted as a more active involvement in the WOT. It is about time. For eight long years, the Belgian Army has been mismanaged to an unprecedented extent by a Defense Minister of the Parti Socialiste, André Flahaut, and anno 2007 the Belgian Army is on the brink of collapse. It is this Pieter De Crem who last spring announced in Parliament that "André Flahaut is the biggest disaster happening to the Belgian Army since the defeat against the Germans in 1940." And about two months ago, shaken by the umpteenth Flahaut blunder, he even exclaimed, trembling with rage, in full Parliament, "that he would make sure that Flahaut would never again be Secretary of Defense". By God, do I hope so. Civilized countries should have written it in their constitution that a socialist can never be Secetary of Defense. It's akin to appointing Naomi Klein for Fed Chairman. Worse. Ask the Israelis.

French Parliamentary elections - first roundAs for the first round of France's parliamentary elections, also on June 10, Royal's socialists suffered another huge setback. The map shows in blue the districts were Sarkozy's UMP and its allies had the majority. The purple districts are Royal's. The map speaks bookmarks. Ten years of forced 35-hour working weeks have driven an awful lot of French into poverty and not lessened unemployment a bit. Analysts forecast Sarkozy's UMP could win at lest 383 of French Parliament's 577 seats. In fact, it is now already certain there will be no cohabitation - a French President having to work with a stubborn and antagonistic Parliament. Instead, Sarkozy is likely to get the green light for sweeping economic reforms. Sarkozy has vowed a new finance bill which will no longer tax overtime earnings. The 35-hour week will very likely abolished. There will be tougher immigration rules. And France may finally become a true ally to the US again.

Something is changing in Europe.