Devil Mania – Belgian football team in the Top 8
“Belgium is back in World Cup football, let’s go crazy!” That about sums up the sentiment of Belgians right before and after the start of the World Cup in Brazil. It has been 12 years since the national team (“the Red Devils”) contended at the top stage of international football, and the thrill of finally leaving behind the feeling of being a small and meaningless country was clearly tangible for a couple of weeks.
Not only the length of the country`s World Cup dry spell, but the fact that Belgium was considered to be an outsider by analysts around the world added to the mania. Streets were draped with flags, with cars following soon. Even for the side-mirrors there was a special design.
Add to that the beer-cans with the faces of players of the team, the enormous amounts of national colour face-paint and devil-hats sold, and the fact that every small village had a place where people could -and would- gather in front of a big screen, and you get an idea of why TV records were broken. At one point almost half of the population watched their team play.
And yes, the lost quarter final match against Argentina did leave Belgium in a collective state of grumbling - after yet another, as most commentators agreed, boring match. But still a national sense of pride lingers on, as the team picked up maximum points in the group stage, played an awe-inspiring match against the US, and the players promised that better times will come. One week after the defeat against Argentina the streets are still coloured in black, yellow and red.
Regions in final stage of formation…
Meanwhile, the formation of the federal government impacts the formations of regional governments.
So what happened? After the elections King Filip appointed the Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, who’s party obtained the most votes, as ‘informateur’, with the task of finding out which parties could form a federal government together. As the leader of that party he was at the same time occupied with the talks to form a government on the Flemish level, thus, his time was divided.
Some week into the talks, it became clear that the socialists would not be withheld in De Wever’s plans to form a federal government. The reaction followed soon: The socialists of PS and the humanists of CDH declared they would start up talks to form a government in Wallonia. The liberals of MR were not included, which was a sign that CDH, a federal partner De Wever had in mind, would be hard to convince to step into a government with the Flemish nationalists.
The reaction followed the day after: N-VA and the christian-democrats of CD&V would start up talks too, with the goal of forming a Flemish government. The PS had beaten N-VA speedily when it came to finding a key ally, so every waiting on the Flemish side -used to find time to build trust with vital partners- was used up. The former cartel partners resaoned that they could form a logical and easy-to-work-with alliance.
However, up to this point, talks are still ongoing, which indicates to some that CD&V, which is the smaller party of the two, is not happy with being nothing more that just a logical partner, but wants to hold on to as much of the influence on Flemish policy it had for the last ten years.
…Federal level lags behind
On the federal level then happened what everyone expected: CDH made clear they are indeed staying with the PS when they rejected the coalition note De Wever presented.
The coalition he had in mind was one of N-VA, CD&V, MR and CDH, but Benoît Lutgen, the chairman of CDH voiced his concern against what he called a ‘separatist agenda’ instead of a Belgian project. Many commentators, especially on the Flemish side, failed to see signs of this, claiming the note of De Wever was very moderate and that Lutgen was playing politics.
De Wever himself asked the king to be removed of his duty, saying “this is not the end”. His replacement in finding a working coalition for the federal government is the chairman of MR, Charles Michel, whose party is excluded from the Walloon government. For now he is still busy with talks, with no estimated time for a note to come.