Expatica news

P.M. candidate sings wrong anthem

23 July 2007

BRUSSELS (AP)-Yves Leterme, the head of the Flemish Christian Democrat party trying to form a coalition government, broke into the French anthem ‘La Marseillaise’ when television reporters asked him to sing Belgium’s ‘La Brabanconne’ on Saturday.

Leterme was also filmed shortly afterward making a mobile phone call during a religious service to mark Belgium’s 1830 independence from the Netherlands. Clips of the Leterme interview were available Sunday on the Internet video site YouTube.com.

Currently the leader of the Flanders region, Leterme is holding talks to form a government and end five weeks of political stalemate that began when elections gave his centre-right party the most seats in the parliament.

Efforts to forge a deal remain deadlocked over deep divisions between French and Dutch speaking politicians over how to share powers between Belgium’s linguistic regions and the federal authorities.

The outgoing coalition of Liberals and Socialists led by Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has continued in office while the talks have dragged on.

At the heart of the linguistic problem is whether French speakers living in two officially Flemish Brussels suburbs should retain the right to vote for Francophone politicians.

Leterme irritated some last year by telling a French newspaper that French speakers living around Brussels seemed ‘intellectually incapable’ of learning Dutch.

He also told French daily Liberation that the only thing French and Dutch speaking citizens had in common was the king, the national soccer team and certain brands of beer.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news