Belgian press fears for country’s future as coalition crumbles
"Bye, Bye Belgium", "Is there still a reason for this country?": the front pages of Belgian newspapers Friday reflected growing fears over the country's future after another government collapse.
The country’s faultline runs along its linguistic divide — between the richer Dutch-speaking Flemish to the north and their poorer francophone neighbours in southern Wallonia.
In a country where each community has its own political parties newspapers and wish lists, holding together a coalition government has appeared an ever more difficult task.
When Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel on Thursday it was the third time he had done so.
It remained to be seen whether King Albert II would let him go or ask him to try to glue together another fragile government.
The front-page of the Brussels French-language daily Le Soir seemed to be throwing in the towel on the whole nation with the existential question “Is there still a reason for this country?”
“Is there still a sense of maintaining a country where there are no more men, women or systems capable of forging compromises … which are vital for Belgium’s future?” it asked.
“If that is not the case. We need to try something else,” the paper opined.
The popular French-language daily La Derniere Heure prophesied “Bye Bye Belgium”, adding “this isn’t fiction” — a reference to an infamous television spoof years ago which announced that Flanders had declared independence from Belgium, a fiction which many people were only too ready to believe.
For French language newspaper La Libre Belgique, Thursday’s events were “a Flemish coup de force”.
The Dutch-language press were in general less dramatic, with some papers hailing the tactics of the Flemish liberal Open VLD party, which walked out on the five-party coalition amid a long-running row over francophone voting rights in Flemish areas.
However De Standaard, the Flemish newspaper of record, was more sanguine, seeing in the latest machinations “a clear sign of the impotence of Belgian politics.”
“In this country, the francophones and the Flemish are no longer in a position to work out a deal on a symbol,” it judged, referring to the impasse in negotiations on the linguistic and electoral rights of French-speakers in flashpoint Flemish suburbs of Brussels.
The Gazet van Antwerpen posed the question which all Belgians are asking themselves. What will happen to their country “after the chaos?”