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Belgian political crisis: king meets with political leaders in search for government coalition

Belgian political crisis: king meets with political leaders in search for government coalition

Belgium's political crisis went back to the king Monday, the ultimate symbol of unity in the ever-more fractious kingdom.
After 155 days of bickering and futile attempts to form an amicable government of Dutch- and French-speakers, King Albert II invited the leaders of all the major parties to sit down with him _ one-on-one _ on how to get out of the quagmire.
Coalition talks became even more complicated, however, because Socialists and Greens said they were unwilling to help from opposition benches to give any Christian Democrat-Liberal government enough support to push through a constitutional reform _ a key stumbling block in negotiations.
"It is not up to the opposition to bail out the (center-right) government," said Caroline Gennez, the head of the Dutch-speaking Socialists, complaining the Christian Democrats and Liberals should have a full program before asking the opposition for help.
"Opposition parties helping the government out of the starting blocks? I have never seen that," she said.
The Francophone Socialists and the Greens echoed her comments.
Changing the constitution would require two-thirds backing in the parliament. In parallel with the royal consultations, Flemish Christian Democrat leader Yves Leterme continued his efforts to find agreement with the Liberals on a government program, but no breakthrough was expected.
"It is time for another coalition formula," Francophone socialist leader Elio Di Rupo said.
While holding no real political powers, the monarch has increasingly been seen as the figure who could help to forge compromise between the linguistic sides, so the move to bring him back into the negotiating mix is an indication of how entrenched the situation has become.
The nation's 6 million Dutch-speaking Flemings in the north want more autonomy and are demanding a cut in aid they give to the poorer south, where the French-speaking Walloons live. A reform of the constitution is the only way to achieve that.
Parties representing the 4.5 million French speakers are opposed to such calls for autonomy and a cut in aid, which they see as a blatant disregard of national solidarity.
Coalition talks broke down last week, five months after elections, when the Flemish parties joined to put an end to the formula that has governed Belgian politics for decades _ consensus decision making.
They used their majority weight to push through a preliminary vote to break up a bilingual electoral district in and around Brussels, a move staunchly opposed by French speakers.
A constitutional court ruled four years ago that such al bilingual constituency was illegal in Flanders and went against the territorial principle of having Francophone parties stand in parts of the Dutch-speaking north.
The political crisis has not reverberated much outside parliament and party offices. There are no demonstrations to speak of, no riots and the most visible impact of the change is the appearance of Belgian flags in a few neighborhoods of the capital.


Updated : 2021-10-23 06:42 GMT+08:00