Would-be PM in Belgium keeps striving for new govt

30th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The man who would be Belgium's next prime minister agreed Sunday to keep trying to form a coalition government, despite an ongoing deadlock between Flemish and francophone political parties.

Socialist leader Elio Di Rupo, asked by King Albert II on July 9 to cobble together a coalition government in the wake of inconclusive June 13 elections, returned to the palace to ask to stand down.

But in a statement, the palace said "the king refused and asked him to pursue his mission," a request that Di Rupo "accepted".

His tasks will be to overcome stumbling blocks that include the future of francophone suburbs of Brussels that lie within Dutch-speaking Flanders, the refinancing of the national capital region and a new federal financing law.

Di Rupo will be required to forge a link "between these three topics with a goal to re-establishing confidence between negotiators" from the many political parties represented in parliament, the palace said.

Flemish nationalists, notably the New Flemish Alliance, were seen as the big winners of the June 13 elections at the expense of the less prosperous francophone half of Belgium.

The outcome raised questions as to whether Belgium -- which currently holds the rotating EU presidency and hosts both EU and NATO headquarters -- was headed for a break-up.

In a statement before meeting King Albert, Di Rupo said a compromise on outstanding issues had been agreed by five parties, but rejected by the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) -- winner of the most seats in the June 13 elections -- and the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD and V).

Belgium's last, five-party, coalition government fell after a key Flemish party walked out in frustration over a lack of movement on some of the knottiest inter-communal problems, prompting the early elections.

Should Di Rupo succeed in forming a government, he would be Belgium's first francophone head of government since Paul Vanden Boeynants, a Brussels Christian Democrat who was prime minister from October 1978 to April 1979.

A country of 10.5 million people and 60 percent Flemish, Belgium already has heavily devolved regional governments, divided along linguistic lines.

© 2010 AFP

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