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Home News Belgian king tasks Flemish leader to seek new government

Belgian king tasks Flemish leader to seek new government

Published on 27/05/2014

Belgium's Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever, whose separatist N-VA party took the lead in a weekend general election, was asked Tuesday by King Philip to begin talks on forming a new government.

The palace said in a statement that the monarch had tasked De Wever, head of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), with a “mission to examine the conditions under which a government can be formed quickly”.

De Wever, whose party led in northern Dutch-speaking Flanders, was given a week and asked to report back to the king next Tuesday, June 3, the palace said.

Incumbent Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, a Socialist from the French-speaking south, submitted his government’s resignation to King Philip on Monday.

He was asked by the Belgian sovereign to continue in a caretaker capacity.

The N-VA’s 32 percent score Sunday in the language-divided country left it the largest party both in its Flanders heartland and in the country as a whole.

Under the country’s traditions, it is the monarch who oversees the formation of new governments, guiding the linguistically-split country’s fractious parties towards compromise.

After the last 2010 election, which like this one left an inconclusive ballot, the country remained without a government for a record-breaking 541 days.

Though De Wever’s triumph was larger than expected, the French language press Monday dubbed it “an incomplete triumph” and a “non-guaranteed win”, while Flemish papers called it a Pyrrhic victory.

This is because the conservative separatist leader ultimately bent on taking Flanders out of Belgium has no natural allies in the mainstream parties.

Di Rupo’s Socialists garnered around 30 percent in southern French-speaking region of Wallonia, but when combined with the votes of a small sister Socialist party in Flanders are almost neck-and-neck with the N-VA.

There are no national parties in the country.

In 2010, De Wever balked at cooperating with others failing a deal over its demands for more devolution.

Belgium’s world-record impasse ended with the swearing-in of Di Rupo’s coalition government in 2011, based on three parties from the north and three from the south.

This time around, De Wever, who was hugely acclaimed by supporters, said: “We don’t want a long political crisis … we want to take the initiative to see what is possible.”