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Belgian report Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2010-06-15 07:51:52
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Belgium has a fresh crisis on its hands, with Sunday's legislative polls yet again throwing up two distinct and mutually hostile political blocs. The country, which has been mired in political instability caused by linguistic quarrels between the Dutch-speaking Flems and the French-speaking Wallons has been unable to come out of a political deadlock. About 60 per cent of Belgium's 10.6 million people speak Dutch, the rest French. A small number also speak German. The New Flemish Alliance (NVA) a nationalist and separatist party emerged triumphant in the northern Flemish-speaking regions, while the Socialist Party did well in the French speaking districts. This has raised the spectre of the country's outright break up or the creation of a loose federation between the Flemish and French-speaking Wallon regions.

Belgium is to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on the 1st of July 2010 but it now looks highly unlikely that a government will be in place by then. Elections were called after Prime Minister Yves Leterme tendered his resignation in April following disputes over the areas surrounding Brussels, the capital, a French-speaking enclave in Flemish territory. The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and their leader Bart de Wever won an estimated 30 per cent of the vote in the northern, Dutch-speaking part of the country, well ahead of the ruling Christian Democrats. Flemish nationalist gains were matched by a large victory for the socialists in French-speaking south Wallonia, with both parties now expected to spearhead government coalition talks. The last coalition was made up of five parties.

The Belgian Interior Ministry indicated that the NVA had obtained 27 seats in Parliament's lower house, just one more than the Socialists. The complex nature of Belgian politics means coalition talks are likely to take months, with September cited as a possible date for a new government to take office. At the centre of disagreements is the future of the Belgian capital, Brussels, which is dominated by French-speakers and enjoys bilingual status despite being geographically situated in Flanders. The NVD's victory in the wealthier north is widely seen as a sign of exasperation among the Flems, who have been calling for more power to the regions. Financial transfers from the wealthier Flanders region have so far ensured the country's unity and solidarity but the Flems claim they are fed up of paying for the wasteful, left-wing southerners and would like to keep their money for themselves.


King Albert starts his consultations

Belgium's King Albert has started a first round of political consultations with a view to the formation of a new Belgian Federal Government following Sunday's General Election.

The Belgian monarch is first seeing outgoing Premier Yves Leterme (Christian democrat) and the Speakers of the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate, Patrick Dewael (Flemish liberal) and Armand De Decker (Francophone liberal). This afternoon the king is expected to see the two winners of the poll: Bart De Wever of the Flemish nationalists and Elio Di Rupo of the Francophone socialists.

Depending on the conversations he has King Albert will in all likelihood appoint a 'formateur' to form a new Federal Government or if the territory is more complicated one or several informateurs whose job it will be to find out which parties are prepared to enter the government.



Nobody benefits from paralysis

The leader of the Flemish nationalist party Bart De Wever has offered a hand of friendship to the Francophones in Belgium after it became clear that his N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) party had won the 2010 Belgian General Election. The N-VA is heading for a share of the vote of up to 30% across Flanders. This makes the Flemish nationalists the biggest party in Flanders and Belgium.

Mr De Wever said that now was the time to build bridges and he hoped that others, even those who lost ground in this election, would be prepared to take up government responsibility. Mr De Wever noted that 70% of Flemings had not voted N-VA. The nationalist leader hopes that others will join him to make the necessary institutional and economic reforms that the country needed.

Mr De Wever added that nobody benefitted from the paralysis in the country. All commentators were agreed that the big question in these elections was the size of the Flemish nationalist N-VA. In the event they became the biggest political force in Flanders and Belgium. The nationalists support an independent Flanders, but in the campaign the party's charismatic leader, Bart De Wever, has been keen to stress that a vote for his party did not mean that the country would be split over night.

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