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Reynders to lead talks on coalition

Published on 13/06/2007

13 June 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) – King Albert II on Wednesday named the leader of Belgium’s Francophone Liberals, who posted large gains in a weekend general election, to lead talks on forming a government coalition.

Didier Reynders, finance minister in the outgoing government, will meet with party leaders to see which parties would be best suited to replace the Liberal-Socialist coalition of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, which has governed since 1999.

The king will pick someone to form the government later, and Yves Leterme of the victorious Dutch-speaking Christian Democrats is the most likely candidate.

Leterme’s party soared to 30 seats from 22 in the House of Representatives after Sunday’s elections. Reynders’s Francophone Liberals held their own, losing one seat to fall to 23, while their Dutch-speaking sister party, Verhofstadt’s Liberals, lost seven seats to fall to 18.

Reynders’ French-speaking Liberals and the Christian Democrats would have no problem forging credible social and economic policies, Reynders said Tuesday. “While there are other (coalition) possibilities, this is the only workable scenario,” he said.

An alliance of Liberals and Christian Democrats would have more than half of the 150 parliamentary seats.

The major difficulty will be to reconcile the linguistic problems between the Dutch-speaking parties, which represent 6 million Flemings in the north, and the Francophone parties and the 4.5 million French-speakers in the south. Because of it, the coalition process could take several months, observers said.

Linguistic problems centre on the transfer of funds from wealthy Flanders to the poorer Francophone regions and the rights of French speakers in and around the bilingual capital, Brussels, and in Flanders.

A simple Liberal-Christian Democrat coalition would lack a two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution to generate more autonomy for Flanders. Parties in economically dominant, more free trade-minded Flanders want more autonomy in economic, justice and security sectors. Francophone parties insist on holding on to Belgian unity.

Adding other parties to a governing coalition to get the necessary constitutional majority would further complicate the matter.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news