A year ago, King Albert II accepted the resignation of the government and after an election and countless rounds of negotiations the search for a new governing coalition still continues.
Since last year’s June election an agreement on the formation of a new government has faltered over linguistic divisions and the future make up of the country, with parties representing Flemish speakers, including the populist N-VA led by Bart De Wever, seeking more autonomy from the Belgium federation while Francophone parties representing Walloons fight to maintain a sense of Belgian nationhood.
Caretaker Prime Minister Yves Leterme said today (April 26) that around three more months may be needed to form a coalition.
The European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, who was Belgian prime minister before taking EU job in December 2009, descibed the situation “extremely pitiful.”
However, while several European Union nations have suffered significant debt problems, Belgium, even without a government, has so far managed to avoid bond market pressure and a run on the markets that have hurt countries such as Greece and Portugal.
“The position of our country is good and we are doing our utmost to keep it that way,” Leterme is reported to have said.
The acting prime minister also called for greater speed in negotiations.
“The longer we wait, the longer we have to postpone reforms and the tougher they become,” he said.
The two largest parties, the N-VA nationalists led by De Wever in Flanders and the PS Walloon Socialists headed by Elio Di Rupo have not failed to find room for compromise. Leterme angered by De Wever’s antics claimed the N-VA leader was not trying hard enough.
“Forming a government is not the first goal of the N-VA,” said Leterme.
However, De Wever’s intransigence has added to the N-VA’s popularity with the party polling above levels it received in last year’s election.