Belgium to hold June election
Belgium's parliament dissolved itself Thursday, paving the way for elections in June made inevitable by the collapse of the ruling coalition last month.
During the parliament's final session a deputy from the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interests) ended his own speech with a cry of "Long live free Flanders, may Belgium die."
The government of Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme fell last month after a key member of the five-party coalition, the Flemish liberal Open VLD walked out, frustrated over talks aimed at decreasing special rights for French speakers in Dutch-speaking Flanders.
The lower house chamber of deputies adopted a list of more than 50 articles of the constitution which could be modified by the next legislature, a move which automatically triggered the dissolution of parliament. Minutes later the upper house Senate did the same.
The formal decision will be published in the official gazette Friday after which a general elections must be held in 40 days.
The exact date must be fixed by royal decree but the chamber's president Patrick Dewael left the matter in no doubt; "The elections are fixed for June 13," he told the session.
Belgium's two main communities, the Dutch-speaking Flanders and poorer francophone Wallonia have long been at loggerheads.
French-speakers fear that Flemish moves towards more autonomy could presage the break up of the country.
No party operates nationwide in Belgium with its linguistic faultline between the two communities. Only the capital Belgium is officially bilingual.
Francophone fears are not eased by opinion polls which put the independentist Flemish NVA in first place in Flanders and in a position to replace Leterme's Christian Democrats in a new coalition.
Following the last legislative elections in 2007 it took more than six months to form a government.
Any such delay now would be an embarrassment for a country which prides itself on hosting the European Union's main institutions and will on July 1 take over the EU rotating presidency.
The fragility of Belgium's coalitions is demonstrated by Leterme's fortunes since the last polls; he quit three times as prime minister and had his resignation accepted twice. His final term lasted just five months.
Last December, without an election, he assumed control from Herman Van Rompuy who left to become the first European Union president.
© 2010 AFP