Key dates in Belgium's political crisis

22nd December 2008, Comments 0 comments

Major moments in Yves Leterme's troubled political life at the top.

BRUSSELS - Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme's future hung in the balance Friday over the controversial break-up of Fortis bank, a new twist in a series of crises that have dogged him for more than a year.

Here are the major dates as his tenure has unfolded:

- June 10, 2007: The Flemish Christian Democrat CDV party and their separatist allies, the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) come out ahead in legislative elections, securing 30 of the 150 parliamentary seats.

The CDV's Leterme reaffirms that he intends to press on with his electoral promise: a vast reform of the state giving more autonomy to relatively rich Flanders, the northern region of the country where most of the majority Dutch-speaking Flemish live.

- July 15, 2007: King Albert II gives Leterme the task of forming a Christian Democrat-Liberal government, dubbed the 'orange-blue' coalition, which would include two Flemish and two French-language Walloon parties.

- Aug 23, 2007: Leterme throws in the towel amid persistent disagreements between the Flemish and Francophone sides over state reform. Parliamentary speaker Herman Van Rompuy is given the job of finding a compromise.

-- Sept 29, 2007: The king deems there is enough agreement to re-appoint Leterme to try again. The negotiators reach a partial accord on socio-economic policy but make no advances on the critical matter of state reform, or the devolution of federal powers to the regions.

- Nov 7, 2007: Flemish parties push through a parliamentary motion aimed at removing the right of French-speaking voters in largely Flemish suburbs of Brussels to vote in other areas, provoking outrage from Francophone parties.

- Dec 1, 2007: After issuing an ultimatum for agreement on key points, Leterme recognises that he cannot hammer out a coalition deal and tells the king he is giving up his bid to become premier, 174 days after the elections.

- Dec 19, 2007: Outgoing prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose administration ran day-to-day affairs after the June polls, accepts a request from the king to form an interim cabinet to end the political paralysis until a long-term coalition can be formed.

- March 20, 2008: Leterme is named prime minister and his new government is sworn in. But he later sets himself a deadline of mid-July to find a power-sharing agreement.

- July 14, 2008: Leterme hands his resignation to the king, four months after taking office.

- July 18: The king refuses to accept Leterme's resignation and seeks to relaunch negotiations on state reform. Those talks have been at a virtual standstill since.

- Oct 5: French bank BNP Paribas takes control of ailing finance group Fortis's operations in Belgium and Luxembourg amid the raging financial crisis.

- Dec 13: Belgian court rules that the Fortis sale to BNP Paribas should have been approved by Fortis shareholders and freezes the deal.

- Dec 18: A top Belgian court accuses Leterme's government of attempting, unsuccessfully, to pressure judges to clear the BNP-Fortis deal.

- Dec 19: Leterme tenders his government's resignation, but the king defers a decision and launches consultations.


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