No Government: new record

6th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

6 November 2007, BRUSSELS – Yesterday was 148 days since the last general election and Belgium still has no new Federal Government. The figure is a record. In 1988 PM Wilfried Martens's eighth administration took charge of the country 148 days after the poll.

6 November 2007

BRUSSELS – Yesterday was 148 days since the last general election and Belgium still has no new Federal Government. The figure is a record. In 1988 PM Wilfried Martens's eighth administration took charge of the country 148 days after the poll.

In 1987 - 88 Prime Minister Wilfried Martens had to be convinced to swap in his liberal coalition partners for the socialists after the election result.

This time round there are different issues, but there are parallels too. This week will surely be a crucial one for the liberal/Christian democrat negotiators.

They have already made significant headway agreeing the future government's justice, defence, security and foreign policy.

Several economic matters have also been settled, but next year's budget still needs to be addressed.

With so many agreements in his pocket PM designate Yves Leterme (Christian democrat) now needs to force a breakthrough on state reforms and the splitting of the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde electoral constituency.

Nobody dares to contemplate the ramifications of a failure to reach an agreement on these issues.

Symbolic dossiers: the bane of Belgian politics

In 1988 Belgium's centre left parties also had to do a deal on a very symbolic issue, the future of Voeren, a Flemish municipality where a majority of French-speakers wanted to join Liège province.

In 1988 the government accord also included new state reforms:

The transfer of education policy and public works to the devolved governments meant a sizeable increase in their budget.

Herman Van Rompuy, the Flemish Christian democrat who has played an important role in both negotiations identifies one major difference: Today public opinion in the North and the South has adopted far more radical positions.

Mr Van Rompuy also sees no alternative for the parties around the negotiating table. Yves Leterme is now on his second stint as "formateur" or Prime Minister designate.

In August after several weeks of talks Mr Leterme had to hand back his task to the king because he was not making any headway.

Then Mr Van Rompuy stepped into the ring and succeeded in improving the atmosphere between the centre-right parties.

Mr Leterme has now been on his second attempt since 29 September. Failure or success, after today his place in the history books is guaranteed.

On Monday Mr Leterme reported back to King Albert. Afterwards he started one-to-one talks with individual parties. Round table talks with all the parties involved resume on Tuesday.

[Copyright Flanders news 2007]

Subject: Belgian news

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