Belgium hit a new milestone Monday — 450 days without a government — but still no one appears to be in any big hurry to resolve the situation. Europe’s financial crisis and feeble economic growth may scare governments from the Arctic Circle to the Mediterranean Sea, but in Belgium it is a sideshow. Talks on a new Belgian government, which have been going on since the June 13, 2010 election, were at a standstill Monday for a third day running.
Why? Because Green Party negotiator Jean-Michel Javaux — also the mayor of Amay, a small eastern town — had to attend a town meeting to vote on, among other things, a new police car and a computer. Prime Minister Yves Leterme, meanwhile, was on a visit Sunday to Israel, assuring its leaders that all’s well in Belgium.
But that’s not really true — intractable divisions between Belgium’s Dutch and French-speaking camps are looming over the nation. And because anything can become a linguistic spat, Belgium has had 45 governments in 67 years.
Francophone Socialist Elio di Rupo is the latest politician trying to form a new government — and he has had 10 predecessors since the 2010 election.
After 15 months of impasse, most Belgians seem resigned to Leterme’s government of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists staying on as a “caretaker” cabinet handling routine business.
… The most accute problem in the government talks is the fate of a bilingual Brussels-area voting district that spills into Dutch-speaking Flanders. It was ruled illegal by a court in 2003 as only the city of Brussels is officially bilingual. Francophones oppose a breakup so as not to lose Francophone voters who have moved to Brussels’ Dutch-speaking suburbs.
Watching the fray is Bart de Wever. His New Flemish Alliance party, the biggest winner in the 2010 vote, seeks an “orderly breakup” of Belgium and is watching with relish as the Socialist, Christian Democrat and Green parties founder in the government talks. “The worse things are in those talks, the better it is for the New Flemish Alliance,” he told the RTBf public broadcaster.
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