Belgium set for June elections as parliament dissolved

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Belgium's parliament voted to dissolve itself Thursday, paving the way for elections in June made inevitable by the collapse of the ruling coalition last month.

The government of Flemish Christian Democrat Yves Leterme fell last month after a key member of his five-party coalition, the Flemish liberal Open VLD, walked out, frustrated at the lack of progress in talks aimed at decreasing special rights afforded to French speakers living in Dutch-speaking Flanders.

The lower house chamber of deputies adopted a list of more than 50 articles of the constitution which could be modified by the next legislature, a move which automatically triggered the dissolution of parliament.

That decision will be published in the official gazette Friday after which a general elections must be held in 40 days.

The exact date must be fixed by royal decree but the chamber's president Patrick Dewael left the matter in no doubt; "The elections are fixed for June 13," he told the session.

Belgium's two main communities, the more affluent Flanders to the north and poorer francophone Wallonia to the south, have long been at loggerheads.

French-speakers fear that Flemish moves towards more autonomy could presage the break up of the country.

© 2010 AFP

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