2007–2008 Belgian government formation

2007–2008 Belgian government formation

The 2007–2008 Belgian government formation followed the general election of 10 June, 2007, and consisted of a period of negotiation in which the Flemish parties Open VLD, Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) and New-Flemish Alliance (N-VA), and the French-speaking parties Reformist Movement (MR), Democratic Front of Francophones (FDF) and Humanist Democratic Centre (CdH) negotiated to form a government coalition. The negotiations were characterized by the disagreement between the Dutch- and French-speaking parties about the need for and nature of a constitutional reform. According to some, this political conflict could have led to a partition of Belgium.]

On September 3, Ecolo said that three conditions must be met for it to participate in a coalition. First, the party refused to join any coalition involving N-VA. A coalition without the N-VA would "respect the different communities" of Belgium. Second, Groen!, the Flemish ecologists would have to be part of the coalition as well. Third, formation would have to be renegotiated to give the climate change a central place in the coalition programme.

CD&V/N-VA said Ecolo's demands could not "be taken seriously" because the CD&V without the N-VA was unthinkable. They also said the presence of N-VA was not a problem, but that the problem is the unreasonableness of the French-speaking parties to negotiate around the Flemish demands. Groen! said it was unwilling to participate in a coalition in which it is not necessary to obtain a majority in parliament. The need to undertake the negotiations again also meant the agreement between the partners about the prolonged existence of several nuclear power plants had to be reconsidered.

Herman Van Rompuy provided the King a first interim report on September 3. Although his effort to include Ecolo in the coalition failed, Van Rompuy continued his mission despite a general decline in optimism about his likelihood of success of his mission steeply declined. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF06092007_081|title=Optimisme over Van Rompuy daalt|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-06|accessdate=2007-09-07|language=Dutch] He formulated several proposals that he suggested to the orange-blue parties.citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF07092007_009|title=Van Rompuy maandag naar paleis voor tussentijds verslag|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-07|accessdate=2007-09-07|language=Dutch] On 10 September, Van Rompuy provided the King with a second "interim" report - something that indicated his work would be prolonged.

Plenary session of the Flemish parliament

Filip Dewinter of the Vlaams Belang proposed to have an earlier plenary session in the Flemish parliament to discuss the communtarian crisis, a request that was granted. On September 10, under the eyes of the international media, he proposed in the plenary session to prepare a plan for an independent Flanders and to hold a referendum on independence.citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF10092007_060&word=vlaams+parlement|title=Geen steun voor referendum|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-10|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] He said that the Flemish resolutions agreed upon in the Flemish parliament in 1999 (that supported a far-reaching devolution of powers) were a breaking point. He also called Belgium "a country that is terminally ill" and that it was time to say "bye bye Belgium".

Other parties vehemently opposed the course of action, proposed by Dewinter. For instance, Ludwig Caluwé (CD&V) said that the Flemish Interest did not vote for the resolutions in 1999. He added that more power to the regions does not imply the end of inter-regional solidarity. Patrcia Ceysens (Open VLD) said that "the country is not going to split, the parliament is not going to declare independence."

Leterme's controversial remark

In Karrewiet, a Flemish news program for children, Leterme was interviewed. He said "We could make sure that they [French-speaking Belgium] could build schools more cheaply. That would be beneficial for students from Wallonia and Brussels. Maybe if we could agree about that, French-speakers would be willing to negotiate about our demands."citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF12092007_017|title=Ketnet stort zich op regeringsonderhandelingen|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-12|accessdate=2007-09-12|language=Dutch]

French-speaking politicians and the French-speaking media were enraged about Leterme's remark. Marie Arena (PS) and Joëlle Milquet (CDH) interpreted Leterme's remark as making the Flemish youth believe Walloon parties are only interested in money and could be bribed. They also said that the lower VAT for building schools was already agreed upon in a six-year old accord which was still not executed. Milquet said that Leterme should refrain from giving interviews.

Wilfried Martens (CD&V) criticized the French-speaking side of the country for misinterpreting a "sign of goodwill" made by Leterme. Karel de Gucht (Open VLD) said that they do not have a veto right about which Fleming can become prime minister. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=B19092321070914|title=De Gucht vindt Waals veto tegen Leterme onaanvaardbaar|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-14|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] He also added that they overreacted. "Who takes away his position as prime minister, turns him into a political martyr. I do not feel like competing against a political martyr during the next election. Why should he not be allowed to speak? The campaign waged against him...is unacceptable."

Criticism on the duration of negotiations

Guy Quaden, president of the National Bank of Belgium, warned on September 13 that the long duration of negotiations were not without a price as much-needed measures in the domains of budget, competition and employment are still not taken. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=B19070009070913&|title=Guy Quaden haalt uit naar politiek|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-13|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] Didier Reynders said that Quaden should occupy himself with "interest rates, not politics". [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF13092007_090|title=Uiteenlopende reacties van MR en CDH|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-13|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] CDH agreed with Quaden. CD&V and Open-VLD also agreed, but said that a good agreement was better than a quick but bad agreement. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF13092007_058|title=CD&V en Open VLD benadrukken inhoud regeerakkoord|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-13|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch]

Elio Di Rupo, the president of the PS, sharply criticized the duration of the negotiations. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelid=KP1HBOHH|title='Met ons erbij was het niet zo ontspoord'|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-15|accessdate=2007-09-15|lenguage=Dutch] "Three months on from the election, they're not even sitting around the negotiation table. This has never happened before". He continued, "If we would have participated in the talks, negotiations would never have been derailed". Di Rupo also called the talks a "guerilla war" rather than negotiations.

Belgian Minister of State Louis Tobback and Trends journalist Geert Noels blamed the Euro for allowing the formation talks to last this long. Since the Belgian government is no longer in charge of its own monetary policy, the value of the currency will not be affected by this political crisis, so there is no monetary incentive to force the formation partners to find a quick solution. [citenews|url=http://www.libertarian.be/2007/08/european-union-brought-belgium-on-edge.html|title='The Euro brought Belgium on the Edge of the Abyss'|publisher=Libertarian.be|date=2007-08-27|accessdate=2007-09-28|language=English]

No participation of the PS

On August 31, the magazine "Knack" reported that talks were taking place to include the francophone Socialist Party (PS) in a tripartite coalition. This was denied by Di Rupo, whilst Didier Reynders absolutely ruled out the MR joining a coalition with the PS. [>citenews|title=Knack et Di Rupo « négocient » sur le net|publisher=Le Soir|date=2007-08-31|accessdate=2007-12-01|language=French] Rumours continued until September 7 when Van Rompuy denied any negotiations on extending the Orange-Blue coalition to include the PS. [>citenews|url=http://www.rtlinfo.be/news/article/31322/0/?&article_comment_page=5|title=Van Rompuy nie toute tentative d'élargir l'orange bleue au PS|publisher=RTL Group|date=2007-09-07|accessdate=2007-12-01|language=French]

On September 14, Jean-Jacques Viseur (CDH), mayor of Charleroi, said that it was wrong to keep the socialists out of the government.citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=RQ1HCM2G&word=PS|title=Verkenner stuurde Dehaene naar PS|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-17|accessdate=2007-09-18|language=Dutch] On September 16, Open VLD senator Patrik Vankrunkelsven agreed and openly questioned his party's opposition to the participation of the socialists in government. He said that as long as the PS is an opposition party, the MR will not make any concessions on state reform.

On September 17, it was revealed that Van Rompuy had used Jean-Luc Dehaene to contact the PS secretly a week earlier. Dehaene met Elio Di Rupo and enquired as to whether the PS would support some parts of a state reform from opposition, as the SP.a has said it will. Di Rupo declined to support reforms as long as the PS is not a member of the coalition.

Larger role for Van Rompuy

Van Rompuy's discretion was appreciated in French-speaking Belgium.citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=J11H9IAG|title=Franstaligen willen bredere rol Van Rompuy|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-14|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] MR and CDH proposed that Van Rompuy would include issues such as the federal budget, justice and social-economic matters in his exploratory mandate. Until then, Van Rompuy only tried to determine communatarian issues ranging from the BHV to the regionalisation of power. Van Rompuy's spokesman said that such a widening of his mandate was not being considered.

Open VLD and CD&V supported the French-speaking proposal. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelid=DMF14092007_037|title=Open VLD: 'geen kwaad om ook andere thema's aan te snijden'|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-14|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] CD&V added that a widening of his role can only happen if Van Rompuy remains an explorer, does not become a "formateur" and does not negotiate. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelid=DMF14092007_059|title=CD&V: 'Voorwaarden aan uitbreiding rol verkenner'|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-14|accessdate=2007-09-14|language=Dutch] Jo Vandeurzen (CD&V) also emphasized that Leterme remains the prime minister designate. VLD responded that they did not have any intention to undermine the position of Leterme. [citenews|url=http://www.standaard.be/Krant/Tekst/Artikel.aspx?artikelId=H21HBMFG&date=20070915&demo=False|title='Wij ondermijnen Leterme niet'|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-09-15|accessdate=2007-09-15|language=Dutch]

econd formation round, 29 September – 1 December

On September 29, Herman Van Rompuy presented his final report to the King. Afterwards, the Royal Palace announced that King Albert II relieved him of his exploratory mission. Later that day, King Albert II again appointed Yves Leterme as "formateur". [citenews|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/070929_Koning_Leterme_en_verkenner|title=Koning benoemt Leterme opnieuw als formateur|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-09-29|accessdate=2007-09-29|language=Dutch] On Friday, 5 October, Leterme provided the King his first interim report, after which negotiations with all orange-blue parties began.

Voting about Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde

Talks for a new government were interrupted on November 7, with agreements about everything not related to strengthening Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels; or to monetary affairs. Chairman Pieter De Crem (Christian Democratic and Flemish) of the Belgian Chamber Committee on the Interior had decided to go ahead with a vote on the split of electoral district Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde. The six Francophone committee members walked out in protest. The 11 Dutch-speaking members continued the meeting, and voted in favour of the split, with only Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen!) abstaining. [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071107_kamercommissie|title=Kamercommissie keurt splitsing BHV goed|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-07|accessdate=2007-11-07|language=Dutch]

The Francophone parties subsequently invoked a procedure known as the "conflict of interest" ( _nl. belangenconflict, _fr. conflit d'intérêt), a procedure whereby a regional parliament can indicate that it feels that the interests of the region are hurt by the decision of another political body in Belgium, in this case the Belgian Chamber Committee on the Interior. [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071107_franstaligen|title=Franstaligen roepen een belangenconflict in|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-07|accessdate=2007-11-07|language=Dutch] The Parliament of the French Community of Belgium approved the procedure on November 9, with three members of the National Front abstaining. This suspends a decision about Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde for a period of 60 days. [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071109_Formatie_Belangenconflict_NVA|title=Parlement heeft belangenconflict ingeroepen|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-09|accessdate=2007-11-09|language=Dutch]

The King intervenes

On November 9, King Albert II intervened. He took state reform off the agenda for the negotiations, and instructed the chairmen of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate to "start a dialogue" on the matter. [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071108_Formatie_BHV_DayAfter|title=Koning wil dat Leterme opdracht voortzet|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-08|accessdate=2007-11-09|language=Dutch] [cite news|url=http://www.nrc.nl/buitenland/article815244.ece/Belgische_koning__formatie_Leterme_snel_afronden|title=Belgische koning: formatie Leterme snel afronden|publisher=NRC Handelsblad|date=2007-11-09|accessdate=2007-11-09|language=Dutch] [cite news|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF08112007_085&kanaalid=433#|title=Mededeling van Het Paleis|publisher=De Standaard Online|date=2007-11-08|accessdate=2007-11-10|language=Dutch] [cite news|url=http://www.lalibre.be/article.phtml?id=10&subid=90&art_id=382062|title=Le communiqué du Palais|publisher=LaLibre.be|date=2007-11-09|accessdate=2007-11-10|language=French] In a joint statement, the parties CD&V and N-VA rejected the decision, and stated they would only join a government if there were "guarantees for big state reform." [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071109_NVA_bijeen|title="Geen regering zonder staatshervorming"|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-09|accessdate=2007-11-09|language=Dutch] [cite news|url=http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/12/europe/EU-POL-Belgium-Government.php|title=Belgian political crisis: king meets with political leaders in search for government coalition|publisher=International Herald Tribune|date=2007-11-12|accessdate=2007-11-14] [cite news|url=http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/11/11/europe/EU-POL-Belgium-Government.php|title=Belgium's largest party objects to initiative to end stalemate in government talks|publisher=International Herald Tribune|date=2007-11-11|accessdate=2007-11-14]

On November 12, the King met with the chairmen of the socialist parties SP.A and PS, and the green parties Groen! and Ecolo, who would be part of the opposition if the orange-blue government were to be formed. The purpose of the meeting was to see whether the parties were willing to take part in a Committee of Wise Men that would examine the possibilities for state reform. [cite news|url=http://www.ad.nl/buitenland/article1818767.ece|title=Koning op de knieën voor steun Oranje-Blauw|publisher=Algemeen Dagblad|date=2007-11-12|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch] SP.A chairwoman Caroline Gennez declined the offer, saying it was not the job of her party to make an orange-blue government possible.cite web|url=http://www.s-p-a.be/nationaal/nieuws/nieuwsitem.asp?iID=14004|title=Concrete voorstellen over staatshervorming, graag|publisher=SP.A|date=2007-11-12|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch] She called the Council of Wise Men "not a way towards a solution to state reform, but a getaway route to nowhere." Mieke Vogels, chairwoman of Groen!, stated her party would not give the new government a "blank check" for state reform.cite news|url=http://www.standaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF12112007_028&kanaalid=433|title=Oppositie loopt niet warm voor 'Comité van Wijzen'|publisher=De Standaard|date=2007-11-12|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch] Chairman Elio di Rupo of the PS said he wanted to see the "menu" of the Committee of Wise Men first; "without a serious menu, [the Committee of Wise Men] risks becoming a talking shop."

The next day, the King met with the chairmen of CD&V, CDH, Open VLD and MR, and with Chamber of Representatives chairman Herman Van Rompuy (CD&V) and Senate chairman Armand De Decker (MR), to discuss ways to start dialogue on state reform.cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071113_Formatie_koningpraat|title=Paleis blijft positief over formatie|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-13|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch]

CD&V's partner party in the negotiations, N-VA, was not invited, neither was FDF, which is affiliated with MR. The chairmen of right-wing parties Flemish Interest, List Dedecker and FN - who would be in opposition if the orange-blue government was to be formed - were not invited either.

One of the instructions the King had given to De Decker and Van Rompuy, was to find a way to start a dialogue on state reform. In an interview with RTBF on November 14, Armand De Decker said he and Karel Van Rompuy wanted to establish a National Committee of Dialogue ( _fr. Collège national pour le dialogue, _nl. Nationaal College van Dialoog). The committee would consist of prominent politicians of the Christian-democratic, liberal, socialist and green parties, who together have a two-thirds majority in both the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. [cite news|url=http://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/ARTICLE_133706|title=Un Collège national pour le dialogue entre les communautés|publisher=RTBF|date=2007-11-14|accessdate=2007-11-14|language=French] [cite news|url=http://www.demorgen.be/dm/nl/989/Binnenland/article/detail/52324/2007/11/14/College-van-dialoog-moet-zich-buigen-over-toekomst-Belgi.dhtml|title='College van dialoog' moet zich buigen over toekomst België|publisher=De Morgen|date=2007-11-14|accessdate=2007-11-15|language=Dutch] Van Rompuy stated that nothing had been agreed upon, and that De Decker had spoken in his own name. [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071114_Formatie|title="De Decker sprak in hoogst persoonlijke naam"|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-14|accessdate=2007-11-15|language=Dutch]

Negotiations at a standstill

While the King is trying to find a new way to hold negotiations between the parties involved, the negotiations themselves have come to a standstill. The parties have not spoken with each other since November 8, and the Francophone parties have stated that they would only rejoin the negotiating table if the Flemish parties apologize for the Chamber Committee on the Interior vote on Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde.

Several politicians had suggested a tripartite government of liberal, Christian-democratic and socialist parties. [Such a government had been suggested by i.a. Open VLD senator Patrik Vankrunkelsven on September 15, 2007 in "Le Soir" and by Van Krunkelsven and a Walloon Minister President Rudy Demotte in "De Zevende Dag" on September 16, 2007. See cite news|url=http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_585536.html|title=Open Vld blijft tegen tripartite|publisher=Het Laatste Nieuws|date=2007-09-16|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch.] The newspapers "Gazet van Antwerpen" and "Het Belang van Limburg" reported on November 13 that the CD&V was leaning towards that option as well. [cite news|url=http://www.gva.be/nieuws/politiek/default.asp?art={741C2F3C-16A5-4C95-BCEA-A2AA227FAD16}|title=CD&V neigt naar tripartite|publisher=Gazet van Antwerpen|date=2007-11-13|accessdate=2007-11-14|language=Dutch] [cite news|url=http://www.hbvl.be/nieuws/politiek/default.asp?art={5DE68D10-A453-496C-87B4-6592AE4BD97D}|title=CD&V neigt naar tripartite - poll|publisher=Het Belang van Limburg|date=2007-11-13|accessdate=2007-11-14|language=Dutch] Party spokesman Peter Poulussen denounced the reports as "pure speculation," [cite news|url=http://www.hbvl.be/nieuws/politiek/default.asp?art={FA64A53F-A202-4D11-8466-9053C60F9DFD}|title=CD&V ontkent aan tripartite te denken|publisher=Het Belang van Limburg|date=2007-11-13|accessdate=2007-11-14|language=Dutch] and Open VLD and MR rejected the idea of a tripartite government. [cite news|url=http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_654858.html?wt.bron=hlnRPArtikels|title=Open Vld herhaalt afkeer van tripartite|publisher=Het Laatste Nieuws|date=2007-11-13|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch] [cite news|url=http://www.hln.be/hlns/cache/det/art_655031.html?wt.bron=hlnRPArtikels|title=CD&V denkt niet aan tripartite|publisher=Het Laatste Nieuws|date=2007-11-13|accessdate=2007-11-13|language=Dutch]

Bruno De Wever, professor at the Ghent University and brother of N-VA chairman Bart De Wever on 17 November stated on Kanaal Z, a Flemish business television channel, that "a periphery around Brussels where 80% speaks French, is not Flemish." [cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071117_BHV_Franstaligen|title="Rand maakt geen deel uit van Vlaanderen"|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-17|accessdate=2007-11-17|language=Dutch] He said that a compromise should be worked with an increase in social and economic competences for Flanders in exchange for the expansion of the bilingual Brussels-Capital Region. Bruno De Wever also said that it is hard to continue to call a municipality where a large majority of the population speaks French a Flemish municipality.

Mayors of Kraainem, Linkebeek and Wezembeek-Oppem

Flemish Interior Minister Marino Keulen (Open VLD) announced on November 14 that he had decided not to appoint the French-speaking mayors of Kraainem, Linkebeek and Wezembeek-Oppem, three municipalities with linguistic facilities in the Flemish Periphery of Brussels, because they had sent letters of convocation (letters calling citizens to vote and informing them where their polling station is) in French for the 2006 municipal elections and the 2007 federal election. This was a violation of rules established by the Flemish Government. The three mayors are all members of the FDF. Marino Keulen will ask the municipal councils of these municipalities to nominate a new mayor for appointment.cite news|url=http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/politiek/071114_Rand_Burgemeesters|title=Drie "randburgemeesters" niet benoemd|publisher=Vrtnieuws.net|date=2007-11-14|accessdate=2007-11-15|language=Dutch]

The three mayors also violated language legislation by allowing French to be spoken during the meetings of the municipal councils of Kraainem, Linkebeek and Wezembeek-Oppem on Monday 22 October 2007, which Minister Marino Keulen described as a provocation.

Myriam Delacroix-Rolin (CDH), the Mayor of Sint-Genesius-Rode, another municipality with linguistic facilities, will be appointed; her municipality had only sent letters of convocation in French for the 2006 municipal elections. [cite news|url=http://destandaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF14112007_089|title=Nieuwe slag voor formatie|publisher=De Standaard Online|date=2007-11-14|accessdate=2007-11-15|language=Dutch]

The Francophone political parties put forth a united declaration in the Walloon parliament on November 16, calling the act by Flemish minister Keulen "a rejection of democracy." The appointment of the mayors should be seen in the broader perspective of the Brussels' periphery, the declaration stated. [cite news | title = Franstaligen willen splitsing B-H-V ongedaan maken | url = http://www.demorgen.be/dm/nl/1341/Formatie/article/detail/52960/2007/11/16/Franstaligen-willen-splitsing-B-H-V-ongedaan-maken.dhtml | publisher = De Morgen | date = 2007-11-16] Damien Thiery, the Mayor of Linkebeek, announced the following day that he will again be presented for appointment as Mayor. [cite news|url=http://destandaard.be/Artikel/Detail.aspx?artikelId=DMF17112007_085|title=Burgemeester Linkebeek zal zich opnieuw kandidaat stellen|publisher=De Standaard Online|date=2007-11-17|accessdate=2007-11-18|language=Dutch]

Resignation of Leterme

A confused week of negotiations started on 26 November 2007 with an agreement proposed by Yves Leterme and immediately accepted by CDH, MR, FDF and OpenVLD. Ironically, his own close partner NV/A did not accept the agreement, requesting more concessions for government reforms in the agreement instead; this led to a week of back and forth statements and interviews in the media.

On 30 November 2007, Leterme made a final proposal with three questions; he requested positive responses to all questions by all parties in order to continue negotiations.cite web|url=http://www.lesoir.be/actualite/belgique/les-reponses-mr-et-open-vld-2007-12-01-564317.shtml|title=Qui pour succéder à Leterme ?|date=2007-12-02|accessdate = 2007-12-27] The questions were:
* Are all topics admissible to be discussed in the special commission for state reform?
* Will the regions be given more leeway in regulating business tax rates?
* Can law proposals for state reform be adopted by any constitutional two-thirds majority, without extra conditions, as well? [Most likely referring to a two-thirds majority consisting of the parties of government - which was expected to have a simple majority in both language groups - with additional parties from only one language group.]

The French-speaking party CDH gave no response to all three questions, and FDF did not accept the transfer of business tax regulations to the regions. [cite web|url=http://www.archive.org/details/MangainsStatementOnLetermes3Questions|title=Mangain's Statement On Leterme's 3 Questions| date = 2007-12-01 | accessdate = 2007-12-01] Faced with this defeat, on 1 December 2007 Leterme gave his resignation as "formateur" to the King, which the King accepted. [cite news | title = Belgium's PM hopeful gives up efforts to form government | url = http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jxQKb3BNsKSj5hKhwTpYIGC4Rhmw | date = 2007-12-01 | accessdate = 2007-12-01]

Consultations by the King, 1 – 3 December

Guy Verhofstadt, who remains the head of government, was received by the King on 1 December. [cite web|url=http://www.rtbf.be/info/belgique/ARTICLE_139175|title=Stop ou encore pour Guy Verhofstadt?] He was one of many politicians who could be asked by the King to try to seek a new consensus between Dutch and French-speaking parties. After visiting the royal palace twice on 3 December, prime minister Verhofstadt was nominated "informateur" by the King, although with a smaller role than an "informateur" usually plays. Verhofstadt stated he was hesitant at first to accept the job. [cite news | title = Crisis mission for Belgian leader | url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7126381.stm | publisher = BBC News | date = 2007-12-04 | accessdate = 2007-12-04]

econd information round, 4 – 17 December

Verhofstadt started his information round on December 4, talking to the chairmen of the Belgian Senate and
Chamber of Representatives, Herman Van Rompuy and Armand De Decker respectively. The chairman have already been given the task by the Belgian King to organize a convention on constitutional reform, with members from the Belgian political class. Verhofstadt also met with the leaders of the largest political parties, followed by the smaller political parties on December 5. The main political parties have not ruled out a tripartite coalition, although Verhofstadt's own party, Open VLD, has come out against such arrangement. [cite news | title = Open Vld verzet zich tegen klassieke tripartite | url = http://www.demorgen.be/dm/nl/1341/Formatie/article/detail/94931/2007/12/06/Open-Vld-verzet-zich-tegen-klassieke-tripartite.dhtml | publisher = De Morgen | date = 2007-12-06 | accessdate = 2007-12-06] List Dedecker has declared it will not support Verhofstadt's endeavours, and wants to see new elections instead. Vlaams Belang and the Front National were not invited by Verhofstadt. [cite news | title = The talking continues | url = http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/flandersnews.be/Newsjavascript%253AsubmitForm%2528document.mainform%252C%2Bdocument.mainform.work_25307%252C%2B%2522x%2522%2529/071205_verhofstadt_talks | publisher = VRT Nieuws | date = 2007-12-05 | accessdate = 2007-12-05]

There were several difficulties associated with forming a temporary government. On the French-speaking side, the MR opposed a government that included all French-speaking parties. On the Flemish side, the VLD opposed the participation of the SP.a, the Flemish socialist party.

Forming interim government, 17 December – 23 December

On 17 December, Guy Verhofstadt was asked by the King to start the formation of an "interim government" that would last until 23 March, 2008. [cite news | title = Verhofstadt to form interim government | url = http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/flandersnews.be/News/071217_interim_govt | publisher = VRT Nieuws | date = 2007-12-17 | accessdate = 2007-12-17] On the morning of 18 December, Verhofstadt met with cdH head Joëlle Milquet and offered the party a part in an interim Government through a person outside the party, a move that confirmed the refusal by MR to a full participation of cdH in the interim Government. In reaction, cdH called a party meeting, soon followed by a press conference where cdH announced its withdrawal from formation talks. The move was followed in the afternoon by a call for francophone unity by PS head Elio di Rupo that announced it will not take part in a Government without cdH. Later in the afternoon, CD&V head Jo Vandeurzen and Yves Leterme requested a meeting with Verhofstadt where they call for an inclusion of cdH in the coalition. MR thus remained the only party opposing a deal that would include cdH, Verhofstadt decided to meet with Milquet again in the evening and bring back his morning proposal of a participation of cdH in the Government through an external actor, but added that this Minister would have the rank though not the title of Deputy Prime Minister. Milquet and her party met and agreed on this proposal. [cite news | title = Une majorité au bout de la nuit. | url = http://www.lesoir.be/actualite/belgique/politique-guy-verhofstadt-2007-12-19-567381.shtml | publisher = Le Soir | date = 2007-12-19 | accessdate = 2007-12-19]

In the early hours of 19 December, Belga News Agency announced a deal had been struck by all parties and an interim Government was to be formed by 21 December and approved by Parliament by 23 December. [cite news | title = Le cdH dit oui au gouvernement intérimaire | url = http://www.rtlinfo.be/news/article/72664/--Le+cdH+dit+oui+au+gouvernement+int%C3%A9rimaire | publisher = RTLinfo | date = 2007-12-19 | accessdate = 2007-12-19] [cite news | title = Het cdH zegt ja - interimregering tegen eind van de week | url = http://www.knack.be/belga/politiek/het-cdh-zegt-ja---interimregering-tegen-eind-van-de-week/site78-section3-article30180.html | publisher = Knack | date = 2007-12-19 | accessdate = 2007-12-19] Later in the day, it was confirmed Guy Verhofstadt would address the Parliament on 21 December with a General Policy Declaration. It was also announced the legal 48-hour delay following the declaration would lead the Parliament to vote its confidence to the interim Government on 23 December. [cite news | title = Interimregering krijgt vorm | url = http://www.demorgen.be/dm/nl/1341/Formatie/article/detail/109632/2007/12/19/Interimregering-krijgt-vorm.dhtml | publisher = De Morgen | date = 2007-12-19 | accessdate = 2007-12-20] The interim Government officially came into office when it was acknowledged by the lower house of Parliament with 97 votes in favour, 46 against on Sunday 23 December 2007. [cite news|title=|url=http://tempsreel.nouvelobs.com/actualites/international/20071224.OBS1726/les_deputes_votent_la_confiance_au_gouvernement.html?idfx=RSS_notr
publisher=Le Nouvel Obs|date=2007-12-24|accessdate=2008-02-03|title=Les députés votent la confiance au gouvernement

Memorandums and agreements

* [http://www.vrtnieuws.net/html/pdf/notavandeformateur.pdf The Power Of People - 1] , the first version of Yves Leterme's formation memorandum in Dutch, as published on [http://www.vrtnieuws.net/ Vrtnieuws.net] .
* [http://www.lalibre.be/free_dossiers/_rubriques/pdf/noteleterme.pdf The Power of People - 1] , the first version of Yves Leterme's formation memorandum in French, as published on [http://www.lalibre.be/ LaLibre.be] .
* [http://www.demorgen.be/static/nmc/dm/nl/red/varia/nota_van_de_formateur_2.pdf The Power Of People - 2] , the second version of Yves Leterme's formation memorandum in Dutch, as published on [http://www.demorgen.be/ DeMorgen.be] .
* [http://download.saipm.com/pdf/libre/leterme.pdf The Power of People - 2] , the second version of Yves Leterme's formation memorandum in French, as published on [http://www.lalibre.be/ LaLibre.be] .
*cite web |title=Bouwstenen van een globaal, coherent en rechtvaardig asiel- en migratiebeleid |url=http://www.standaard.be/extra/pdf/20071008_communique.pdf |publisher= [http://www.standaard.be/ De Standaard Online] |date=2007-10-08 |accessdate=2007-10-17 |language=Dutch Memorandum on asylum and migration policy agreed to by the orange-blue parties.
*cite web |title=Kansen in Europe and in de Wereld |url=http://www.standaard.be/extra/nota%2010%20oktober%20NL.pdf |publisher= [http://www.standaard.be/ De Standaard Online] |date=2007-10-10 |accessdate=2007-10-17 |language=Dutch Memorandum on foreign affairs and defence agreed to by the orange-blue parties.
*cite web |title=Veilige samenleving, doeltreffende, dicht bij de mensen staande en menselijke justitie |url=http://www.standaard.be/extra/justitie.pdf |publisher= [http://www.standaard.be/ De Standaard Online] |date=2007-10-15 |accessdate=2007-10-17 |language=Dutch Memorandum on justice agreed to by the orange-blue parties.
*cite web |title=Une société sûre et une justice efficace, proche et humaine. |url=http://www.lesoir.be/mediastore/_2007/octobre/du_11_au_20/_16_Justice_Interieur_pluspropre.pdf |publisher= [http://www.lesoir.be/ Le Soir en Ligne] |date=2007-10-15 |accessdate=2007-10-17 |language=French Memorandum on justice agreed to by the orange-blue parties.
*cite web |title=Samen gaan voor duurzame levenskwaliteit |url=http://www.standaard.be/extra/Duurzaam.pdf |publisher= [http://www.standaard.be/ De Standaard Online] |date=2007-10-24 |accessdate=2007-11-10 |language=Dutch Memorandum on sustainable quality of life agreed to by the orange-blue parties.

ee also

*2007-2008 Belgian political crisis
*Partition of Belgium
*Belgian general election, 2007
*State reform in Belgium


External links

* [http://www.standaard.be/Kanaal/Index.aspx?KanaalId=433 Coalitie07] - Dossier on the coalition talks on the website of De Standaard. nl
* [http://www.demorgen.be/dm/nl/1341/-Home-Nieuws-Binnenland-Formatie/index.dhtml Formatie] - Dossier on the coalition talks on the website of De Morgen. nl
* [http://www.hetvolk.be/GT/Index.aspx?genericId=303 Formatie] - Dossier on the coalition talks on the website of Het Volk. nl
* [http://www.hln.be/hln/alg/pag/hln_index.jsp?p_page=belgie&p_cat=verkiezingen_2007&pOWC=15 m Formatie] - Dossier on the coalition talks on the website of Het Laatste Nieuws. nl
* [http://www.vrtnieuws.net/cm/vrtnieuws.net/nieuws/2.240/2.1022 Formatie - Leterme I] - Dossier on the coalition talks on [http://www.vrtnieuws.net Vrtnieuws.net] , the news site of the Vlaamse Radio- en Televisieomroep. nl
* [http://www.lesoir.be/dossiers/elections_2007/actu/index.shtml Elections 2007] - Dossier on the 2007 Belgian general election and the coalition talks on the website of Le Soir. fr
* [http://www.lalibre.be/dossier.phtml?id=10&folder_id=401 Négociations à rallonge] - Dossier on the coalition talks on the website of La Libre Belgique. fr
* [http://www.rtlinfo.be/news/section/95/--Elections++2007 Elections 2007] - Dossier on the 2007 Belgian general election and the coalition talks on [http://www.rtlinfo.be RTLinfo.be] , the news site of the RTL. fr

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