Yesterday, in the presence of the King at Laeken Palace the new government was sworn in. So it is finally over. The bad jokes can stop, politicians wives can stop withholding sex from their husbands, patriotic men can shave their beards off and everyone be glad that the country will not be falling apart right now, at least not because of the deadlock of the parties. One thing that prompted an agreement to finally be made was the inability of the caretaker government to deal with the worsening economic crisis, not just across the European Union but Belgium itself also when agencies downgraded Belgian credit rating from AA+ to AA, which will make borrowing money more expensive (not that I understand economics at all). So, after all this time, even the parties began to realize that if Belgium did not have some kind of government, if even it was not ideal, the two halves of the country would be ruined together. So, finally an agreement was made and the King asked Elio Di Rupo to take the position of Prime Minister. It is one of the smallest governments Belgium ever had with only 13 ministers and 6 secretaries of state. In this case, at this time, maybe smaller is better anyway.
Not everyone of course is happy. That is not going to be surprising but what might be is just what some people are complaining about. One headline said of the new cabinet, “Too few women and too West Flemish”. Is this for a joke? Over five hundred days of deadlock and no government and some people are complaining because only 6 of the 19 are women and 6 of the Flemings are all from West Flanders. Too little diversity? But surely having Elio Di Rupo for Prime Minister should count for a number of different minorities. Limburg has no representative, Antwerp only 3 (hey!) and, for the first Francophone prime minister in decades there is worry for the ability of Elio Di Rupo to speak Dutch (he does not do it very well). The feminists are upset, many Flemings are upset (which should have been expected under the circumstances, by both groups) and one feminist Fleming said there is “no excuse” for this outrage! My apologies for not having all groups represented ideally but really, it was 541 days without any government at all! Obviously not everyone will have everything they want and when this much time has passed by and the situation becomes more and more serious the choices will clearly be worse and worse. This mentality itself is for me what is upsetting. It is no wonder the country seems always on the brink of collapse when everyone is keeping a chart to see if “their” side, group, language, gender, region and everything else is always represented no less than every other one with their own charts.
With everyone talking about the deal that was made, who gets this or that and how many “firsts” this represents for Elio Di Rupo being Prime Minister, the one person the media overlooks in all this is the most important, THE KING! It was all along the King who was the only person involved in the process with no ulterior motives or agenda, no special interest for anything before the nation entire and there was no one like the King who put everything else aside to find an agreement that would be in the best interests of the country. In 2007, 2010 and this year the King had to call off his vacation time because of the crisis and we know how many times he has had to pick new mediators, persuade mediators to stay on and acted himself as a broker between the leading politicians. Before anyone applauds too highly Monsieur Di Rupo, remember the times he was wanting to give up on the process but the King recalled him and persuaded him to stay on and see things through until an agreement was at last reached. While foreign politicians mock Belgium for this impasse and while the media makes a big joke of the inability of the parties to work together it has all the time been the King who has done his duty, ignoring all else, refusing to participate in any festivities so long as the work of the state was left undone because of the deadlock.
Think back to how many mediators resigned over these difficulties. Can I remember them all? Not at all, Bart De Wever, as a courtesy, made the first effort but no one was having anything to do with him. Elio Di Rupo then came in, tried and failed. Danny Pieters and Andre Flahaut took their turn, I remember Johan Vande Lanotte who quit after three months of negotiations (who tried to resign earlier but the King refused him). He was followed by Didier Reynders (who I cannot help find funny, something about him makes me always laugh) then there was Wouter Beke of the Christian Democratic and Flemish Party, also ending in frustration and finally Elio Di Rupo again who has finally emerged as the Prime Minister. Throughout all of these people who tried, grew frustrated and failed in these hundreds of days, the one permanent, reliable and sincere figure who never gave up and who always had only the best interests of his country at heart was King Albert II. He should be given credit for all of his efforts, he is the real hero in this ugly display of partisanship and it is the King who everyone should applaud and be proud of. Vive le Roi! Leve de Koning!