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King asks Flemish separatist to lead Belgian coalition talks

Belgium’s King Albert II on Thursday asked Flemish separatist leader Bart De Wever to lead talks on forming a new coalition government, days after his party came top in a general election.

The king handed De Wever, leader of the NVA (New Flemish Alliance) party, “an information mission,” the palace said in a statement, adding that the 39-year-old republican had accepted.

The mission falls short of the go-ahead to try to form and lead a federal government, something De Wever has previously said he is not interested in doing.

The NVA party won the largest share of the vote in Dutch-speaking Flanders in Belgium’s general election on Sunday.

Such a result is unprecedented for a party in favour of eventual independence from Belgium’s poorer francophone region of Wallonia to the south.

Among the francophone electorate the socialists came out on top in both Wallonia and in Brussels, the projections showed.

The francophone socialist leader Elio Di Rupo is considered favourite to become prime minister when all the political horse-trading is done.

De Wever will first hold meetings in the coming days with other party leaders to see what kind of a coalition government it would be possible to put together.

He said earlier in the week that he hoped such a coalition, from both sides of the linguistic divide, could be in place by September 1.

The king received Di Rupo for talks just ahead of his meeting with De Wever.

The 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.