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Europe

Belgium matches world record for longest time without a government

Belgium has been in political limbo for 249 days, with little sign of reaching a resolution soon. The only other country to have gone so long without a government is war-torn Iraq.

Belgian flag blowing behind a statue

Several mediators have tried reconciling Belgium's parties

Belgium tied the world record for the longest time a country has gone without a government on Thursday. It was its 249th day of political deadlock.

Iraq set the record in December, but politicians in the war-torn country managed to form a government on day 249 of the stalemate. Belgium, however, is showing little sign of breaking its deadlock any time soon.

Light-hearted protests were scheduled throughout the country on Thursday, including a demonstration by 249 scantily clad people in Ghent. Other demonstrations were to include a rally at a courthouse in Brussels, distribution of free french fries in Louvain and a flash mob of students in Cork.

"We've had enough political games," protest organizer Kliment Kostadinov told French news agency AFP. "We must quickly get a government and institutional reform that benefit all Belgians."

Ongoing struggle

Thousands protest in Brussels in January

Thousands demonstrated for national unity last month

On Wednesday, Belgium's King Albert II gave his chief negotiator, Didier Reynders, two more weeks to bring together the country's rival political parties. Belgium has lacked a government since its last ruling coalition collapsed in April 2010.

The deadlock comes from a dispute that follows Belgium's regional and linguistic divisions. Dutch speakers in the prosperous north - about 60 percent of the country's population - have demanded greater autonomy for their region. French speakers in the south, meanwhile, are afraid of losing funding if the north breaks away.

Dutch-speaking nationalists did well in elections last June, but did not win enough votes to take power. Since then, a caretaker government has run day-to-day affairs in Belgium.

Belgium broke the European record for longest time without a government last month, beating the Netherlands' 1977 milestone of 208 days.

Author: Shant Shahrigian (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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