Belgium deputies block bill at heart of political crisis
Belgium's French-language political parties on Thursday blocked a Flemish attempt to push through parliament a divisive bill at the heart of the collapse of the government.
French party leaders sounded an "alarm bell", a little-used procedure, to stop majority Flemish representatives passing into law measures that would do away with some rights of French speakers in suburbs of Brussels.
The head of the liberal Francophone MR party, Daniel Bacquelaine, said the attempt to vote the bill was a provocative "attempt to impose by force a vote by the Flemish community against the French community.
"We're demanding that the house suspend a vote on this dossier," he said.
The move, last used in 1985, means the bill cannot face a vote for a month.
Flemish parties have been pushing for more federal powers for their relatively-prosperous region, and the bill would have stopped around 130,000 French speakers from voting for candidates speaking their language.
Belgium's government collapsed a week ago when a coalition party pulled out in protest at the slow pace of negotiations on the bill. Early elections are widely expected to be called.
But many fear that a new vote now, as Belgium prepares to take over the European Union's rotating presidency on July 1, could polarise the parties amid public anger at the impasse, which has dogged governments for three years.
© 2010 AFP