Is a government formation nigh?

27th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 November 2007, BRUSSELS - Belgium's would-be premier, Yves Leterme, struggled Monday to persuade his own Flemish Christian Democrats to agree to join a centre-right government that would postpone a decision on granting more autonomy to their prosperous northern region.

27 November 2007

BRUSSELS - Belgium's would-be premier, Yves Leterme, struggled Monday to persuade his own Flemish Christian Democrats to agree to join a centre-right government that would postpone a decision on granting more autonomy to their prosperous northern region.

For the seventh time, Leterme visited the royal palace Monday - 169 days after the elections - to update King Albert on his effort to form a government. He made no comment following the meeting. The self-rule dispute has foiled efforts by Christian Democrat and Liberal parties from Belgium's Dutch- and French-speaking communities to form a government since they won a majority in elections on 10 June.

Francophone parties fear the Flemish demand for greater regional powers -- notably over taxation and social security -- will undermine national unity and threaten a break-up of Belgium.

Leterme has proposed creating a "convention" of federal and regional representatives to draw up a constitutional reform plan in autumn 2008. This would allow for the formation of a government that could concentrate on the day-to-day running of the country.

On Monday, Leterme sought to win over his own party, which is concerned the convention would delay and diminish their demands for devolution. They want the government to commit in advance to reforms granting more power to the regions.

Joëlle Milquet, leader of the French-speaking Christian Democrats and long an opponent of Flemish autonomy demands, endorsed Leterme's plan.

"There are enough safeguards to reinforce the (Belgian) federation," she said. "It's time to discuss other crucial issues."

While the stalemate continues, the outgoing centre-left government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity.

[Copyright Flanders news 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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