Belgian record

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Sign

I’ve covered the subject of Belgium’s government, or rather the lack of one, before. But today marks a new world record for the country overtakes Iraq for previous record of “longest political crisis”. Following elections 249 days ago the elected representatives have been able to form a majority to govern and the longer the crisis drags on, the more the debate gets radicalised.

Life goes on
Talk to many a Belgian and this is something that’s more of interest to foreigners than locals. If Belgian politicians are squabbling, things look normal on the ground. Indeed there’s already quite a split between Dutch-speaking Flanders and French speaking Wallonia, each half has plenty of devolved powers so don’t get visions of the lights being switched off as local government takes care of plenty.

For Belgians and cyclists alike there’s not much at stake, it’s just The Inner Ring tries to give you a flavour of what’s going on behind the racing. But when you see someone waving the yellow flag of Flanders, there’s a high chance they are supporters of the N-VA or the far right Vlaams Belang political parties, that the flag-waving is a political gesture. Look closely and if the lion has black claws instead of the normal read ones then this is the flag of the nationalists.

But things can get politicised, the recent funeral of a former Miss Belgium got caught in a polemical crossfire. I hope any rivalry behind Tom Boonen and Philip Gilbert isn’t hijacked by desperate politicians.

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{ 7 comments }

Nico Gartmann February 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

It is not for foreigners, it is a big matter here! But you are correct to say we live as normal.

Alexis February 17, 2011 at 1:07 pm

You say it doesn’t matter but it could have serious consequences for the economy. Belgium has big debts. Increased political instability means increased interest rates. The political crisis can blow into an economic crisis.

The Inner Ring February 17, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Nico: yes, it is a big deal. I just meant it gets a lot of headlines for Belgium today around the world but for a Belgian, today is no different than yesterday.

Alexis: yes, I didn’t want to go into too much detail but there is the potential for it to get worse.

If readers want more detail: the longer the crisis goes on the more the Flemish successionist parties are doing well. So whilst there is talk of new elections, the N-VA (centre-tight Flemish party) is incentivised to hold out, as extending the crisis can boost its position. And as Alexis says, there are fears of the country splitting in two and provoking a debt crisis, fears over who would pay for the debt in the event of a split means investors think twice before lending money to Belgium.

But that kind of panic seems on the horizon and the point I wanted to make in the piece was that life goes on, that people are living pretty much as normal today.

bikecellar February 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm

A bit off post here, but mentioning national and regional flags there is the idea for an article here on flags seen at bike races. I personally would know the national flags, the lion of flanders the basque and breton flags. But I see others that I do not know. There is also the Impromptu advertising banner. Dirk Hoffman Autohomes springs to mind often seen at the roadside of belgian races. Not to mention the loons/fans that dress up Does the guy in the Eddy Merckx kit still turn out?

jkeltgv February 18, 2011 at 1:21 pm

The same thing happens in Italy with “Padania” flags – the green circle cut into sixths on a white background which is the symbol of Lega Nord (once fairly far right, but moving centre/populist). It was pretty visable in Mendriso and always gets a run in the dolomites. Watching a stage to Passo Fadaia in 2008 (Sella & Ricco’ were the standout riders that day!) a number of “southern” cyclists (Di Luca and Viscontin I recal) were abused and there was writing on the road telling Di Luca to go back to the south.

Most races today in Europe would have a combination of the yellow Flemish flag and the Padania flag angled across the road at the finish line, occupying most of the screen shot….alongside our old friend Dirk Hoffman….who I will never rent a motorhome from!

The Inner Ring February 18, 2011 at 1:25 pm

bikecellar: I’ve done that already, see http://inrng.com/?p=550, as jkeltgv points out the Padania flag is a common sight at Italian races. It is the 150th anniversary of Italian unification today but often an Italian is from their region first, then Italian. You can even see it with the pro teams, Liquigas from mostly from the North East, Lampre near Milan etc.

bikecellar February 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Cheers! I shall have to find some time to checkout your archives, but that two wheeled machine demands so much of my time!

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