Constitutional Crisis in Belgium

The key question to ask is the future of Brussels – it is comprised of somewhere between 60-85% French speakers depending on who you ask. If the country is split, in which half would Brussels lie?

The Wallonian minority suspended the 150-day old talks to form a new coalition government after a wedge issue was forced through by the Flemish majority. The issue is repartition of the voting areas around Brussels and it’s the most touchy subject in the long running Flemish-Wallonian divide that could end by splitting the country in two.

Hard-right party spokesperson Gerolf Annemans had this to say:

“I’m delighted. We’ve worked for years to push this through,” said Gerolf Annemans of the separatist, far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). [editor: Vlaams Belang was previously known as Vlaams Blok]

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A day of high drama revived media speculation about a possible break-up of the 177-year-old nation, seat of the European Union’s main institutions, even though polls show most Belgians favor unity.

For French-speakers, who make up about 40 percent of the Belgian population, it marked the first time the Dutch-speaking majority had enforced its will, helped by extreme-right Flemish nationalist deputies.

“The talks are on hold,” Didier Reynders, acting finance minister and head of the French-speaking Liberals, told a news conference after a meeting of all francophone parties.

“The Belgian pact is based on compromise. In Belgium, you negotiate on the basis of protecting minorities. A majority of six million against four, that’s not Belgium any more.”

Would-be prime minister Yves Leterme, the Flemish Christian Democrat leader, earlier made a last-ditch attempt to keep talks to form a centre-right Christian Democrat-Liberal government on track.

This split runs back to the very beginning, and a minority in the Flemish North has always wanted this split from the French-speaking Wallonian South, and they’ve allied with different causes and philosophies through their history to achieve that end.

Their current electoral victories seem to have carried them to the position they need to make progress, and these victories were achieved through adoption of several popular Flemish causes, listed in the order of general import to the public:

  1. Independence and self determination
  2. Ending the 15% economic transfers to the poorer Wallonian South
  3. Anti-EU sentiment
  4. Cultural Xenophobia/Anti-immigration
  5. Anti-Islamofascism
  6. Anti-Turkish entry into the EU
  7. Anti-Drug stance
  8. Pro-family stance
  9. Tribal nationalism

This winning formula has some opportunistic stances that are shallow, the important ones are near the top. I could have the order of a couple of these reversed, but that’s the general feel I have from reading their campaign material, various blogs, news reports, and contrary reports on all of the above. I’ve hit their sites, and their opponent’s sites to gain contrasting views and tried to boil things down to essentials. The leadership of VB has questionable tactics, associations, and pasts that have been the subject of many blog posts the past two weeks, and I will not delve into that while reporting what is basically news.

The key question to ask is the future of Brussels – it is comprised of somewhere between 60-85% French speakers depending on who you ask. If the country is split, in which half would Brussels lie? Would they split it off into an EU district instead to serve as capital of the EU? Time will tell that tale.

The worrisome bullet 9 in VB’s collection of causes is highlighted by the Vlaams Belang link up above, and by other things I have seen on VB’s sites.

The drivers of the Flemish bus right now are VB’s leaders, and their confrontational approach to politics might serve Flanders well, or it could lead to further conflict in Europe; something nobody really needs at the moment with two real wars going on, oil prices rising, the crisis in Pakistan, and the holidays coming on.

Soldier’s Angels Needs Donations

Soldier’s Angels is a charity that takes care of our soldiers and their families – they help the wounded and their families. They provide tailored laptops to soldiers with disabilities, and each year they grow in the amount and types of help they give.
Our soldiers have put their all on the line for liberty, and it’s incumbent on us to not only honor that service but as well to help them and support them when they return from it.
Please stop by and give a donation, or if you wish to join the inter-service competition for the army, you can scroll down the right sidebar here for the donation widget. They also have teams who help, and forums if you cannot afford to donate. Please visit and see what you can do to help in their site’s left menu — there might be a military family in your neighborhood in need.

Here is the story of Soldier’s Angels from their web page:

Soldiers’ Angels was started by a self-described ordinary mother of an ordinary young man turned hero, Sgt. Brandon Varn. Brandon was deployed in Iraq and has since honorably completed his mission and has returned back to his proud and loving family.

In the summer of 2003, he wrote home expressing his concern that some soldiers did not receive any mail or support from home. Being a caring and loving mother, she decided not to allow a situation like that to continue. She contacted a few friends and extended family to ask if they would write to a soldier or two. Within a few short months, Soldiers’ Angels went from a mother writing a few extra letters to an Internet Community with thousands of angels worldwide.

With more and more merchants donating services, money and items for packages, the Angels reorganized as a 501 c 3 non-profit so all donations would be tax deductible. Soldiers’ Angels currently supports tens of thousands of American Service Members stationed wherever we raise our nation’s flag, and that number continues to grow daily. Soldiers’ Angels are dedicated in supporting our military during and after their deployment.

In December of 2004 a worldwide support forum was created in the hopes of providing a place where the needs of our heroes could be fulfilled. 

Now this ordinary mother’s youngest son, Bretton Varn, is serving his country in Iraq as he continues his family’s legacy of bravery, honor and commitment. As with all of our brave men and women in the United States Armed Forces, our thoughts and prayers are with Brett and his family as he begins his tour in service to his nation.

May God Bless Our Troops!

Pakistan Update: Fazlullah Takes Another Town

UPDATE: Police have clashed with PPP supporters of Benazir Bhutto outside parliament. This comes after a trip to Islamabad, where she is attempting to pull the old All Parties Democracy Movement back together, saying she will include PML-N and MMA as well. The planned rally Friday in Rawalpindi was banned, but she plans to hold one anyway. From AP:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto called on supporters Wednesday to defy a ban on protesting Pakistan’s imposition of emergency rule “at all costs,” even as the government threatened to crush her demonstrations. She also said more than 400 members of her Pakistan People’s Party have been arrested.Supporters were planning a rally Friday in the nearby city of Rawalpindi, the opposition leader said, and intended to make a nearly 200-mile march from the eastern city of Lahore to the capital Islamabad early next week.“I request my brothers and sisters to reach Rawalpindi at all costs,” said Bhutto—who survived a suicide bombing on Oct. 18 that killed more than 140 people—setting the stage for a showdown with authorities who vowed to come out in full force.

The mayor of Rawalpindi said police would prevent anyone reaching the park where Bhutto hoped to address supporters on Friday.

“We will ensure that they don’t violate the ban on rallies, and if they do it, the government will take action according to the law,” Mayor Javed Akhlas told The Associated Press, claiming there was a “strong threat” of another suicide attack against Bhutto. He did not elaborate.

The TNSM under Fazlullah has taken another town from the police without a fight; from the Daily Times:

Security personnel surrender unharmed after militants surround Madyan * Helicopter gunships sent to target militant positionsPESHAWAR: Militants seized a town in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday and hoisted their flags over buildings after security forces surrendered, AFP quoted police and residents as saying.The town of Madyan was the third to come under the effective control of followers of firebrand religious leader Maulana Fazlullah, who is demanding Sharia law in the erstwhile tourist resort of Swat.“They seized Madyan town today, they have already overrun Matta and Khawazakhela towns” in their earlier push, a police official said on condition of anonymity.Police surrender: Police gave up their weapons, vehicles and control of local police stations, the officer and local residents said. “The militants are continuing their advance,” the police official said.

At least 37 police and paramilitary soldiers left the main police station without a fight after militants surrounded the town and assured them that they would not be harmed, residents said.

Helicopter gunships: A Swat police official said authorities had sent helicopter gunships to target militant positions in the area.

Residents said the militants were in complete control of Madyan and were patrolling the town, AFP reported. Witnesses said Fazlullah’s supporters hoisted their flags over government buildings and guarded important sites, such as banks and bazaars.

Fazlullah is taking advantage of the leadership vacuum, both at the federal level with the PCO political ramifications taking all energy, and at the local level with the Northwest Frontier Province now under a care-taker government.

Meanwhile, Benazir is calling for Musharraf to lift sanctions or face PPP led demonstrations across the country. Also Daily Times:

PPP Chairwoman Benazir Bhutto on Tuesday warned President General Pervez Musharraf to lift the state of emergency in the country and announce free and fair elections, otherwise the party’s November 9 election rally in Rawalpindi would turn into a protest demonstration. “The people of Pakistan are against the imposition of emergency in the country and want free and fair elections. President Musharraf should fulfill his promise and announce free and fair elections after lifting the emergency,” she told a press conference at Zardari House after her arrival in Islamabad. She said the PPP was ready to talk to other political parties for a joint course of action against the emergency. “I personally talked to Ishaq Dar and asked him to contact Nawaz Sharif in this regard. We are also ready to take the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and other smaller parties along, provided they denounce the emergency,” she added. 

Meanwhile there is more sectarian fighting, this time erupting in the Khyber region. Things are headed towards high boil, and there’s no lid on this pot.