Vooruit chairman Conner Rousseau wants to break into the Flemish government after the elections in 2024. He wants, as he has already made clear in his book T., can weigh on the powers of Education and Welfare. And Rousseau has been thinking for some time that he will have to be at N-VA for this. At a three-day meeting with his party leadership in De Barkentijn, the holiday center in Nieuwpoort where Rousseau has been guiding youth camps for years, he came to that conclusion again at the end of August.
With the polls of recent years in hand, the party leadership of Vooruit has come to the conclusion: barring a major shift in the electoral balance of power, it will be with N-VA if we want to govern Flemish in the future. Mathematically speaking, the Flemish nationalists seem almost inevitable. Today there is little that can be done on the left. And a classic tripartite with socialists, liberals and Christian Democrats will probably not win a majority in the Flemish Parliament either.
A yellow-red collaboration between N-VA and Vooruit remains. In the words of Rousseau this weekend in The morning: “Forming a government is not only ideology but also arithmetic. There is a good chance that we cannot get around N-VA if we want to keep the extreme right out of the Flemish government. I do not want to wake up in a Flanders in which an extreme right-wing party will co-manage with such wrong figures.” And: “We are not going to be silly: if I can change things for the better, then I want to do that with N-VA.”
Rousseau’s ‘luck’ is that the N-VA is also increasingly looking to Vooruit as a possible partner after the elections. This has to do with the federal negotiations in 2020, where chairman Bart De Wever has maintained good contact with Rousseau. Someone who, in his eyes, has always remained loyal to the agreements made about a yellow-red government. Unlike Egbert Lachaert and Alexander De Croo.
It has to do with the ‘click’ that Zuhal Demir, the Flemish leader of the party, has with Rousseau. (Apart from their arguing last week about the sense and nonsense of the Energy Consultation Committee.) It has to do with the analysis that is being made louder and louder within the party leadership of the N-VA: that the center-right story has worn out. An ‘ideologically coherent’ coalition does not by definition appear to be powerful. Bourgeois I and Jambon I at the Flemish level and Michel I at the federal level have previously proven the opposite.
And finally, it has to do with the fact that hardly any people within N-VA are open to an adventure with Vlaams Belang. If the far-right party will soon be the winner of the ballot, there will probably be talks with chairman Tom Van Grieken. Just like in the summer of 2019. But the chance that N-VA will also form a government with Vlaams Belang afterwards seems microscopic. Particularly radical figures such as Dries Van Langenhove are given too much leeway within the party for this.
In a conversation with The newspapaer De Wever denies this weekend that a deal has already been made with Rousseau. “Because I already meet with the chairman of Vooruit? In any case, we have no preliminary agreement or a firm intention to do anything together.” Although he adds in the same breath that he does not want to know anything more about Open Vld as long as De Croo is pulling the strings. “I don’t see myself working with him anymore in my life.”
Which of course also plays a role: for the N-VA, Vooruit is a crowbar to come to the federal table in 2024. The Flemish nationalists still aspire to their ‘agreement with history’: the transformation of Belgium into a confederal state in which the federated entities determine the rhythm of things. In view of the electoral positions south of the language border, it has been understood within N-VA for some time that this requires an agreement with the PS. A Flemish government with Vooruit can already help those talks go a long way.
Making predictions in the Wetstraat is always very risky, but in this way a script seems to be gradually unfolding for what awaits us in the weeks and months after the elections in 2024. With the current balance of power, it seems that N-VA, after a mandatory number with Vlaams Belang, may look to Vooruit to write a Flemish agreement. An agreement that – if the parties together do not have a majority, which does not seem obvious – is then submitted to a third party.
There are not many options: cd&v, Open Vld or Groen. The greens seem the least likely choice. Because of their own reluctance to govern with the Flemish nationalists, but also because of the fact that a future coalition would then lean firmly to the left. Between Open Vld and cd&v, the question may arise as to whose aversion it will take: that of De Wever against Open Vld or that of Demir against cd&v? It is an open secret that Demir is fed up with the Christian Democrats.
At Vooruit, it will come down to getting hold of social departments such as Education and/or Welfare. In that case, perhaps with a comeback from former chairman John Crombez? And their own supporters and union must be convinced of the fact that things can also change for the better with N-VA. A source: “We are now planting seeds.”