Belgium gets emergency government

Dutch-speaking and French-speaking parties agree to tackle political deadlock.

    Verhofstadt aims to end the deadlock that has left Belgium without a government for six months [EPA]
    His outgoing administration has been running the country since the election but has been able only to deal with day-to-day affairs rather than to take more strategic decisions.

    Thousands of Belgian trade union members marched on Saturday in protest against the failure of politicians to form a government and grapple with rising fuel and food prices.

    Linguistically divided

    The linguistically divided country, home to the headquarters of the European Union and Nato has been without a government for a record period, sparking speculation the 177-year-old state could split into Dutch- and French-speaking regions.

    An opinion poll published on Monday showed a vast majority of Belgians wanted the country to stay together.

    Verhofstadt spent a week assembling an alliance of Christian Democrats and Liberals - each split into Dutch- and French-speaking camps - and Francophone Socialists.

    In the June elections, the Liberals and Christian Democrats won 81 of the 150 seats. But their efforts to form a government collapsed repeatedly in disputes over more regional autonomy.

    "There has been a tough electoral campaign, there have been efforts to form a government, but now we are turning the page," Yves Leterme, head of the Christian Democrats in Flanders, said.

    "We are making a collective effort to work as a team," said Leterme, who could eventually become prime minister if a permanent coalition government is formed after his party came out on top in the polls six months ago.

    Economic and social issues

    The emergency government is set to deal with economic and social issues left unattended for more than six months and will serve to draft constitutional reforms to grant more self-rule to Flanders, Belgium's Dutch-speaking northern half, and Wallonia, the Francophone south.

    In wealthier Flanders, a region of 6.5 million, more self-rule is supported by all parties. But politicians in poorer Wallonia, with its 4 million residents, accuse Dutch-speakers of seeking to wrest social security from the hands of the federal government.

    That, they say, would mean the end of Belgium.

    The interim government is to be in office until the end of March when it is to make room for a government Liberals and Christian Democrats, the winners of the June vote.

    By then, it is hoped Dutch- and French-speaking politicians will have healed their divisions over more regional autonomy.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Explore how your country voted on global issues since 1946, as the world gears up for the 74th UN General Assembly.

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.