Belgium approaches 150 days without government

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The Independent Online

Belgium is heading for a record 150 days with no government unless the Christian Democrat and Liberal election winners resolve a spat blocking their bid to form a coalition.

Five months after the vote on 10 June, the two parties are still in disagreement over three issues: the economy; more self-rule for Dutch-speaking Flanders and Francophone Wallonia; and the scope of a Brussels-area voting district that a court declared illegal in 2003. The latter two issues have been highly divisive in a nation of six million Dutch speakers and 4.5 million Francophones, even leading to calls for an independent Flanders.

Yves Leterme, the would-be Christian Democratic Prime Minister, held talks over the weekend with his would-be coalition partners, but with no resolution.

There is no deadline for forming a government, but the deadlock could lead some politicians to break from the effort and force the King to appoint a different Prime Minister-designate for new negotiations.

Belgium faces the 150-day mark without a government on Wednesday.

Angered by the slow pace of Mr Leterme's negotiations, Flemish politicians have said they would vote in the parliament's home affairs commission to split up the Brussels voting district – one of the three contentious issues. Such a vote may cause Francophone politicians to leave Mr Leterme's talks altogether.

Joelle Milquet, head of the French-speaking Christian Democrats, warned Francophones would see such a vote by the Flemish "as an act of hostility".

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