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New Belgian government wins parliament's backing to end political crisis

New Belgian government wins parliament's backing to end political crisis

Belgium's interim government won vote of confidence in Parliament Sunday, gaining support for the coalition Liberal Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt assembled to end more than six months of political stalemate.
As expected, the five parties in the coalition easily mustered a majority in the Chamber of Representatives, which met on Sunday for the first time in 27 years to ensure the government is in place before the holidays.
The government secured 97 votes with 46 against and 1 abstention.
Belgium has been gripped by a political crisis since a general election on June 10. The Flemish Christian Democratic party emerged as the big winner in the election, but has been unable to strike a coalition agreement with French-speaking parties, who resist its plans to devolve more power from the federal government to the regions.
Under a compromise, Verhofstadt agreed to stay on as head of an interim administration until March, despite the losses suffered by his Flemish Liberal Party in the June elections.
Verhofstadt is scheduled to hand over power to the Christian Democrat's Deputy Premier Yves Leterme on March 23 if an agreement can be found on the balance of power between Belgium's squabbling Dutch- and French-speakers.
The interim government includes the Liberal and Christian Democrat ministers from both sides of Belgium's linguistic divide, plus the French-speaking Socialists. Together, the five parties hold 111 of the 150 seats in the chamber. The coalition's program is designed to tackle economic, social and environmental issues neglected during the 194-day political crisis.
Leterme, who also holds the title of minister for institutional reform, has the task of reconciling Francophone opposition to Flemish demands for more regional autonomy _ particularly over issues like taxation and social security. French speakers fear that would cut funding to Wallonia, their poorer southern region. They are also concerned about the rights of French-speakers in Flemish suburbs around Brussels.
In the debate before Sunday's vote, Leterme's CD&V party warned the French-speakers they would have to accept a transfer of more powers to the regions. "Those who oppose reforming the state risk making ungovernable," said Servais Verherstraeten, the party's parliamentary leader.
As prime minister-designate, Leterme failed for months to strike a deal with the French-speakers, prompting King Albert II to ask Verhofstadt to stay on.
The tensions among the new coalition partners were clear Sunday, when the outgoing Defense Minister Andre Flahaut, a French-speaking Socialist, called his Flemish Christian Democrat successor Pieter De Crem "an idiot."


Updated : 2021-07-26 21:50 GMT+08:00