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Belgian's Van Rompuy Named New Prime Minister

Flemish Christian Democrat Herman Van Rompuy was named Belgium's new prime minister on Tuesday, the royal palace announced, after reaching agreement on a five-party coalition government.

Graphic of Belgian flag superimposed on a country map

The new government takes power after months of political turmoil in Belgium

The announcement came after Van Rompuy reached agreement for a new Belgian coalition government of five parties, opening the way for his official nomination as prime minister by the Belgian monarch, King Albert II.

"The king held an audience this afternoon at the Laeken palace with Mr Herman Van Rompuy, and named him prime minister," a palace statement said.

Van Rompuy, 61, was until now speaker of the lower house of parliament.

Tough year in Belgian politics

Belgium's Court of Justice under a rain shower

Belgium's politics have been in crisis mode for more than a year

The move to form a government came 11 days after a government, headed by Yves Leterme, fell on Dec. 19 after Leterme and his justice minister, Jo Vandeurzen, were accused of trying to influence judges in a case concerning the sale of collapsed banking giant Fortis. Both men denied the charges, but resigned.

The Leterme government, in turn, took over in March from a caretaker coalition of the same five parties headed by former premier Guy Verhofstadt - defeated by Leterme in June 2007 elections.

Relations between Belgium's political parties have long been embittered by a disagreement over the division of power and wealth between the richer, Dutch-speaking province of Flanders and the poorer, French-speaking region of Wallonia.

Van Rompuy takes power as Belgium reels under the impact of the current financial crisis and with the vexed question of the relationship between the two main regions as yet unsolved.

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