Friday, September 21, 2007

Walloon Party Leader Threatening Flemish MPs

Belgian crisisDidier Reynders, party leader of the Walloon Conservatives (MR), threatens Flemish Members of Parliament in an interview with Walloon public television RTBf and the magazine Le Vif/L'Express. In the same interview he demands that the Flemish winner of the elections Yves Leterme (CD&V) denounces his party's and region's interests.

Wednesday evening, Didier Reynders was invited for an interview organized by the Walloon public television station RTBf and the magazine Le Vif/L'Express on the occasion of the reopening of the political year. Asked for a comment on the ongoing political crisis in Belgium, and in particular the problems to conform the election constituency of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde to the constitution, Didier Reynders said the following:
They [the Flemish Members of Parliament] do not always know they're putting a knife on their own throats while there's an explorer [i.e. Herman van Rompuy] trying to find a solution. I hope they'll have the wisdom to give him a chance.
He also qualified the behavior of the Flemish MPs as «suicidal».

It's unclear how conforming a constituency to the Belgian Constitution could be «suicidal» behavior. It seems to me that from a Flemish perspective, it looks more like a form of resurrection of Flemish authority over the whole Flemish territory than suicide. In fact, if the Flemish MPs don't split the constituency according to the regional borders, they continue to leave thousands of Flemings at the mercy of Walloon politicians who want to annex large parts of the Flemish Region.

In another part of the interview, Didier Reynders, who has openly solicited for the job of Prime Minister, demands Yves Leterme, the clear winner of the elections by gaining about 800,000 votes in Flanders, to take distance from his own party, the Flemish Christian-democrat CD&V, and the Flemish people. If Yves Leterme fails to do so, he would not be acceptable as the new Prime Minister to the Walloons, Didier Reynders implied. However, if that's true, it would be interesting to know whether also Didier Reynders is prepared to denounce own party and his own people to become the next Prime Minister of Belgium. Maybe giving up all your principles is a condition to which only Flemish politicians must adhere if they want to play a significant role in a Belgian federal government, and certainly if they want to lead it. Of course, there are more than enough examples of Flemish politicians who did exactly that.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

«Belgian» Muslims Better Integrated Than Thought

Executieve van de Moslims in BelgiëWhile the mainstream media are trying to prove through some strange polls that Belgians don't want to break-up Belgium, Muslims are proving they're so well integrated into Belgian society that the Flemish Muslims want to break up the Muslim Executive of Belgium because of a huge corruption scandal involving its French-speaking vice-president Kissi Benjelloul.

On Tuesday, Flemish public television (VRT) published the results of a poll showing that 70% of Belgians don't want a break-up Belgium. However, if we zoom in on the results, it turns out that the results are quite different in the North and the South of Belgium: 91% of the Walloons, quite understandably, want to keep Belgium together, but almost 40% of the Flemings wouldn't mind if Belgium were put to an end today. It's true that this means that on the average, 70% of the Belgians don't favor a break-up, but that figure is of course enormously misleading. Furthermore, even though VRT points out that there isn't a majority for separatism in Flanders (yet?), I wonder whether they really think such high figures can be considered to be normal at all.

Ironically, while Belgium is going through one of its worst existential crises, the Muslim population is proving it is much better integrated into Belgian society than previously thought. The Muslim immigrants, many of them holding the Belgian nationality thanks to mass naturalization laws and practices, have always been considered to be the last hope of Belgium. If there have never been Belgians but only Flemings and Walloons, as Jules Destrée pointed out 95 years ago, why not make some Belgians out of those immigrants, the motto seemed to be, especially in Brussels where they could join and support the local French-speaking majority. Now it turns out that even these immigrants aren't Belgians, but only Flemish Muslims and Walloon Muslims, to such a degree that one could start to wonder whether maybe the Muslim Executive is infiltrated by a separatist group that's trying to prove a point.

Take on the one side the French-speaking vice-president of the Muslim Executive, Kissi Benjelloul. Currently he's under the investigation of the police for trying to cover up debts using fake invoices issued by the restaurant Le Caire. Apparently the Muslim Executive let the restaurant bill invoices for an amount of about 15,000 euro for all sorts of things. It's not the first time Kissi Benjelloul attracted the attention of the police: last December he had to spend a night in jail because of abuse of government money. Seems like he would fit well in Charleroi's municipal council, half or more of its (socialist) members being in jail or soon to be because of various corruption scandals.

The other side is represented by the imam and council member Taouil Nordine. He was quoted saying that the Muslim Executive isn't taking its responsibility in this matter, thus ruining the Muslims' image. «The Flemish Muslim community is furious because of this. We don't want to have anything to do with those Walloon corrupt people any more.» He's lucky he's a Muslim though, because otherwise he would already have been qualified as a racist for making such remarks.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

«Tired of Bad Weather? Vote for Us!»

Socialist Left Party of NorwayNo kidding: the Norwegian Socialist Left Party (SV) is really promising better weather if people vote for them in the upcoming local elections. There's a little problem with the slogan though: bad weather usually refers to cold weather, while SV wants to stop the global warming. And after having one of the worst summers in Oslo in man's memory, people aren't exactly that scared by the idea of global warming any more if it would lead to some local warming too.

The Socialist Left Party, a member of the Norwegian coalition government since the 2005 elections at which it gained 8.8% of the votes and 15 of 169 seats in the Norwegian Parliament (Storting), has always profiled itself as the climate party in Norway. For the local elections this year, to be held next week, one of the slogans is «Lei av dårlig vær? Stem SV!», which translates to «Tired of Bad Weather? Vote SV!». But does this slogan make sense at all?

Traditionally, bad weather has always meant cold weather, rain, snow, hail, ice, fog, floods, etc, but never warm or hot weather, not even heath waves. Coincidentally, Oslo has had one of its worst summers in man's memory, i.e. the last five years or so, and people are indeed getting tired of the bad weather. Newspapers had been predicting the arrival of summer for two or three months, constantly scheduling it two or three days ahead, until they gave up somewhere in the middle of August. Not to worry though, the autumn will be warmer than usual, and in fact, by the end of this week, temperatures will be higher again. No really. Seriously. In any case, if you want to find somebody in Oslo who's still afraid of global warming, not to mention local warming, it won't be easy to find one. My guess is that even some of the employees at the headquarters of SV have asked themselves these last few weeks, in a weak moment, where global warming is when you really need it.

So is there anything more behind this election slogan? Well, for one thing, SV proves again that green parties like to play on the emotions of the not-so-well informed people who can't or don't like to think for themselves. They do the same thing in the nuclear debate or the debate about GMOs. Taken plain literally, the slogan doesn't make any sense at all, but I have to admit that it does sound good if I turn my brain off for a moment. Another thing is that their supporters make strange arguments to defend the slogan, like they do in other debates too. There are in fact two arguments going around for why this election slogan is supposed to make sense after all. The first one is that global warming supposedly causes local cooling in Norway, in particular in the area around Oslo. This theory was rejected years ago, but it never really died in the minds of people. The second argument is that the bad weather in the slogan doesn't refer to the bad summer we've had in Oslo, but to the bad weather in the rest of the world. The problem with that argument is that it isn't clear why people living in Oslo should be tired of bad weather on the other side of the globe, except maybe for all the media fuzz around it caused by, exactly, environmental organizations and green parties like SV. Seems more like an argument why not to vote for SV, if you ask me.

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