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Belgium struggles to form government

Published on 09/08/2007

9 August 2007

BRUSSELS (dpa) – Two months after the Belgian parliamentary elections of 10 June, coalition negotiations on Thursday were threatening to fail over issues of state reform.

Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme, who is planning to form a new government with the Liberal and Democratic Party, insists on more regional autonomy – a move the liberal and conservative affiliate parties in the French-speaking south of the country strongly oppose.

“As the party forming the government you are a hostage when the parties refuse talks or take on irreconcilable positions,” Leterme told Flemish radio station VRT.

Several rounds of talks did not bring any progress.

The previous coalition of Liberals and Socialists only managed to win 75 out of the 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives, the lower house of the Belgian parliament, against 97 seats in the last election.

Leterme’s Flemish Christian Democrats became the strongest group in the chamber with 30 seats, up eight. Its Walloon affiliate won two additional seats and now has 10 members in Parliament.

The Liberals remained the largest political party family with a total of 41 mandates.

Four years ago, it took the Liberals and Socialists two months to decide on the continuation of their coalition without their former Green Party partner.

Numbers would allow for a renewal of the 1999 three-party coalition after the 2007 elections.

However, due to the complicated party system, coalition negotiations in Belgium have a tendency to drag on: the record was 148 days in 1988.

[Copyright DPA 2007]

Subject: Belgian news