Belgium: No-one really wants a quick government at any price

And the popular initiatives won’t change it.

Questions:

1. The number of popular initiatives, urging politicians to do something, is rising (this weekend’s demonstrations, popular actor’s call not to shave, virtual sit in in front of government’s office.) Do you think this kind of initiatives could somehow break the standoff?

2. Belgium is more than 220 days without government. Why there still isn’t new election?

3. In case of new election, do you think the results will be so different that it could solve the crisis?

Answers:

Steven Van Hecke, Senior Fellow – Research Group European and International Politics, University of Antwerp

1. I don’t think so. The two protagonists, Bart De Wever (Flanders) and Elio Di Rupo (Francophones), were very quick to downplay any possible pressure. The first does not want to enter a ‘bad’ government; the second told that one needs to take as much time as is needed. No-one really wants a quick government at any price.

2. Because an election would not change much (see my answer to questions 3); because it would clearly show the failure to reach a compromise, also vis-à-vis the financial markets; because no-one wants to be responsible to trigger early elections. Like in June 2010, the party that is responsible for early elections is normally defeated.

3. If one can trust opinion polls, they are remarkably stable since June 2010. The big parties stay big (and become a bit more big); the small ones stay small. Moreover, do not underestimate the discourse of a campaign. It might lead to the fact that it is even more difficult to talk to your opponents after another campaign in which everyone blamed everything to everyone.

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