Belgium marks 'political record'

Belgians claim world record as they mark 249 days without a government with celebrations and protests.

    Protesters took to the streets of Belgium earlier this year to demand a unity government be installed [AFP]

    Belgians have been marking a near world record of 249 days without a government, due to political deadlock following June elections last year that failed to produce a clear winner.

    Despite the ongoing political crisis, residents are using Thursday to hold a "chips revolution", honouring a favourite national dish, with various events going on around the country.

    "Of course it is serious that we have no federal government," Kris Peeters, the Flemish minister-president of Flanders, said.

    "But on the other hand, I appreciate very much the humour of certain actions."

    In Ghent, a Dutch-speaking region, organisers say 249 people will strip naked to mark the days of the crisis, while a group of people calling for a unity government are using the occasion to press their cause.

    "We've had enough of political games," Kliment Kostadinov, one of the organisers of the "chips revolution", told the AFP news agency.

    "We must get a government fast and a reform of our institutions that is good for all Belgians."

    'World champions'

    Their is some doubt as to whether 249 days without a government is really a world record.

    Iraq took 249 days to get the outlines of a government agreement last year, but the approval of that government took a further 40 days.

    Belgium's major parties began talks shortly after the June 13 elections last year to force through the biggest constitutional reform in decades.

    However, gathering support for the reforms from both the nation's Dutch and French speakers has so far proved elusive.

    At stake in the haggling is a deal to reform Belgium's federal system, giving more autonomy to each of its regions - Flanders in the north, French-speaking Wallonia in the south, and the capital Brussels, a bilingual enclave in Flanders.

    The political deadlock has stopped reforms going ahead, and King Albert II has had to appoint and accept the resignation of one go-between after another as the major parties refuse to move from their pre-election positions.

    Despite their disagreements, both Belgian and French press marked the occasion with a carnival mood, the leading daily in Flanders claiming "At last, world champions" and French-language Le Soir saying "Record Beaten".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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