Belgian govt in crisis

6th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Deadlock in dispute over special voting rights adds on to longstanding tension between Dutch and French-speaking politicians.

6 May 2008

BRUSSELS - Belgium's two-month old government looked near collapse Tuesday with stalemate in negotiations between coalition partners over longstanding tensions between Dutch and French-speakers.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme rushed back early from a Paris trip to try to rescue his shaky five-party government at talks late Monday.

But participants said there was still no solution after the talks on a dispute over special voting rights for French speakers resident in Dutch-speaking suburbs of the capital Brussels.

The issue was one of many causing bad blood between politicians of the rival language communities as Leterme struggled to set up a coalition government during nine rocky months following his election victory last June.

Flemish parties, representing the Dutch-language community of Belgium, want to do away with a special arrangement whereby French-speakers in Flemish suburbs of Brussels vote in the capital, where French-speakers are a majority.

Belgian politics have long been marked by deep divisions between Dutch-speakers, making up 60 percent of the country's population, and French-speakers.

Flanders, Belgium's northwestern half, seeks greater regional powers to reflect its prosperous status. It also resents subsidising the less affluent French-speaking Wallonia region in the south.

[AFP / Expatica]

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