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Belgian government adieu

April 26, 2010

Belgium's center-right government collapsed on Monday, four days after the prime minister tendered his resignation in a dispute between French and Flemish speakers over language and political rights.

A member of the Flemish party, Vlaams Belang, wearing a badge that reads: 'Split Belgium'
Many Belgians sympathize with splitting the country into its French and Flemish parts.Image: AP

Belgium's King Albert II has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme's coalition government amidst feuding between Flemish and French speakers over the apportionment of a bilingual Brussels electoral district. It is the third time in as many years that Leterme offered to step down when faced by intractable disputes.

"The king has accepted the resignation of the government," a short statement said, after Finance Minister Didier Reynders asked to be relieved of his three-day mission to broker a political solution for deep-rooted linguistic differences.

Premier Leterme in a car leaving the royal palace after meeting King Albert II
Prime Minister Leterme has now quit his job three timesImage: AP

The collapse of the government was triggered after the Flemish-speaking Open VLD party announced last week that it was leaving the coalition over controversial plans to redraw the boundaries of the Brussels Halle-Vilvoorde electoral district.

Belgium's Constitutional Court ruled in 2003 that the so-called BHV district, the only bilingual constituency in the country, would have to be reapportioned.

Since then, Belgian leaders have remained at loggerheads over Flemish demands to make parts of the district monolingual and Francophone calls to allow voters throughout the district to support French-speaking political parties.

The downfall of Leterme, who will stay on initially in a caretaker capacity, comes at a highly inopportune moment, a little over two months before Belgium is slated to take over the European Union's rotating presidency on July 1.


Editor: Susan Houlton