Belgian fragile government comes under threat
Belgian political crisis flares as Flemish lawmakers voted on the deeply-contentious issue of French-speakers' voting rights in Brussels suburbs.9 May 2008
BRUSSELS - A simmering Belgian political crisis boiled over Friday after Flemish lawmakers voted on the deeply-contentious issue of French-speakers' voting rights in Brussels suburbs on Thursday night, threatening the fragile coalition government.
Members of parliament managed to schedule in a vote on the issue as sought by Flemish lawmakers, which minority French-speaking legislators see as a direct affront.
But to block any vote for 120 days, French-speakers could launch a conflict of interest procedure as early as Friday.
Eager to avoid a crisis, Prime Minister Yves Leterme had in recent days been racing against the clock to negotiate a compromise on the issue, which is threatening his government barely two months after taking office.
The row was one of many dividing politicians of the rival language communities as Leterme struggled for nine months to set up a coalition government following his election victory last June.
Flemish parties, representing the Dutch-language community of Belgium, want to do away with a special arrangement whereby French-speakers in Flemish suburbs of Brussels vote in the capital, where French-speakers are a majority.
Belgian politics have long been marked by deep divisions between Dutch-speakers, making up 60 percent of the country's population, and French-speakers.
Flanders, Belgium's northwestern half, seeks greater regional powers to reflect its prosperous status. It also resents subsidising the less affluent French-speaking Wallonia region to the south.
[AFP / Expatica]