(03b) Three-Power system: Belgium (Part 1)
But I fear also in politics (and other parts of life) are we moving towards a One-Power system (sometimes this is necessary to restore order). I already mentioned that people might start voting for a strong (mostly conservative) leader. Of course a strong leader is needed, but he should always respect the other powers: Parliament and Justice. He should not ignore their powers, claiming they slow down and interfere with the decisions he wants to take. But the other powers also deserve to be respected (and here is a major problem).
Belgium needs to reform: people in Flanders, Wallony and Brussels (and the German-speaking area although I will neglect them as politicians from this region are used to be ignored by Belgian politicians) all have different opinions about what is good for the country and its community. On a number of important subjects, these communities completely disagree and can't reach an agreement, therefore causing a standstill for Belgium as a whole. In the meanwhile, at the moment the governments in the regions continue working. Many people (especially in Flanders) are convinced Belgium needs to change its constitution to improve its efficiency. However, other people disagree with this analysis although at the same time they wonder why we have no government yet. (maybe the secret for a solution is that Belgium needs to reform because the present system no longer works).
The Belgian political system and its problems.
During most of Belgium's history, Belgium had a unitary system with only one Belgian government. Due to many problems (it didn't really work otherwise people would not have changed the system) the constitution, and thus Belgium, was changed into a federal system. The problem is that many politicians (and civil servants) still find it difficult to accept that all power is no longer at the federal level but that the regions have their own governments and that the regional politicians sometimes make decisions politicians from the federal (Belgian) government don't like. Therefore, a number of politicians want to change the constitution to define much better which policies should be at what level to avoid decisions can be taken at more than one level. E.g. education is completely regional and thus there are no problems about the direction one should take (of course some people find the education system bad in Flanders but most people like it and thus too many children study in Flanders). Thus, it is better to allow local politicians to rule themselves as long as they accept the overall rules. And if they make wrong decisions, people can punish them during elections. Thus, a number of politicians want better definitions about the subjects that should be done at the regional and federal (and even at the European) level.
The problem is that Flanders had rightwing extremists who want an independent Flanders (and remove every person they don't like such as non christians, gays, non-whites). And thus those who don't like changes always call those who want to improve the Belgian system fasists. And indeed, quite a large number of politicians are not in favour of federalism. They say the system works as it does (so why don't we have a government yet?). But I can understand them because they fear that Belgium will fall apart with more federalism, although I think it might save Belgium.
Now another movement is developing. Some politicians are now claiming a stronger Belgian (Federal) government is necessary to counter the economical problems and they say that when Belgium has a new federal government, the current regional governments should resign and be replaced with politicians from the same political parties as in the federal government because they claim that this will make it easier to make the necessary difficult decisions to be the economy as the politicians in all governments will have the same polities. Of course, this is not true as most Flemish politicians have other ideas than those from Wallony on how to solve the economical crisis, thus the disagreements between the regional and federal governments will continue.
And at this moment there is a big financial crisis whereby Europe (rightly) demands we have a budget and solutions about a number of near future problems. But some politicians use this to impose their own politics.
What is happening at this moment?
After the elections politicians started talking about changing the constitution. Some politicians thought it was not that urgent until they saw most of the Flemish politicians would only accept changes. After more than one year, agreements were reached on a number of reforms. At this moment there are discussions about the budget for the next years. The problem is there is not only a north-south division but also one between the political parties about the actions needed to save our economy. This makes the discussions very difficult. At the same time Europe demands actions while the financial sector is waiting for the moment Belgium has its government to lower its rating. (Did you notice that the financial markets mostly lower the ratings of countries after politicians reach an agreement and they explain this by saying the politicians actions are not sincere enough. Today they started targetting Germany in order to force Germany's PM to accept the introduction of European bonds because I think she will not be able to resist the pressure everyone will put on her to accept those bonds. Or her party will remove her from power with the argument a strong leader is needed who accepts the rules of the financial markets).
What do I think?
I think we need more decentralisation so each government can decide how they want to solve the crisis. The politicians in the different parts of the country will be able to apply their policies: some will focus more on increasing taxes (especially in Wallony (e.g. higher taxes on business cars)) while others will focus on decreasing the spending (especially in Flanders (e.g. reduce unemployment benefits)). Now a compromise will be reached so that none of the solutions will be ideal and the problems will remain.
I (Flemish) would like to see that politicians force the financial system to take its responsability (they should pay for the mess they started and they should not be allowed anymore to pay bonuses (should be done at European and even UN level)) before politicians can ask ordinary people (many are now already suffering) to accept lower expectations in life (this does not mean less happy live as I will show later).