Belgian government fails after four months in office

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Belgium lies divided with some people calling for more talks, others demanding for new elections and the rest urging for a split in the country.

15 July 2008

BRUSSELS - Tuesday's reactions to Belgium's latest government crisis reflected longstanding divisions among the country's political parties, with some calling for more talks, others demanding fresh elections and others still urging a split of the country along its linguistic divide.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme tendered his resignations on Monday night after realising that his five-party coalition government would fail to meet a self-imposed 15 July deadline for reaching a consensus on constitutional reform.

But King Albert II rejected the resignations after a four-hour meeting with Leterme and called for more time to find a solution to the crisis, the Belga news agency reported.

Leterme's deputy, Didier Reynders, said the prime minister should stay on and make a final attempt to reach a deal.

"The government must go ahead with its social and economic program. We have to go ahead with our coalition and with Leterme as premier," said Reynders, who belongs to the French-speaking liberal Reformist Movement (MR).

But Leterme's own Flemish Christian Democratic (CD&V) party insisted that time had ran out.

"Mr Leterme has done everything possible to reach a deal between the different communities, and has even done more than is humanly possible," said Marianne Thyssen, the CD&W's party chairwoman.

Dutch-speaking politicians openly blamed their French-speaking counterparts for the state of affairs, with the Flemish Socialists calling for fresh elections and Dutch-speaking hardliners demanding an end to the country's 178-year-old co-habitation.

In offering his resignations, Leterme said he had found it "impossible to bridge" the differences between parties representing Belgium's 6.5 million Dutch-speaking Flemish people and its 4 million French-speaking Walloons.

"This shows that Belgium's federal model has reached its limit," he said in a statement.

Both sides have been trying to increase their influence in the country, with the Flemish demanding increased responsibilities for their territories. The reorganisation of the multilingual constituency of the Brussels region has stirred particularly strong feelings.

The formation in March of the Leterme government, which includes conservatives and liberals of both language groups as well as Francophone socialists, had appeared to resolve a nine-month political crisis - the longest in the country's history - following the June 2007 elections.

[dpa / Expatica]

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