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Elio Di Rupo
Elio Di Rupo is to become Belgium's next prime ministerImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Belgian breakthrough

December 1, 2011

Belgium has set the world record - 535 days so far - for going the longest without a formal elected government. But a final agreement has been reached, meaning the country's political deadlock is finally nearing its end.


Six Belgian political parties were due to review to a landmark coalition agreement on Thursday, bringing an end to a political crisis that gave the country the ignoble distinction of going the longest period without a formal government.

The separate Dutch- and French-speaking wings of the Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals already crossed the last major political hurdle, an austerity budget, on Saturday. The 185-page coalition contract was agreed to late Wednesday and was to be reviewed by party leaders on Thursday, meaning the new government could be in place early next week after parties meet over the weekend.

Elio Di Rupo, leader of the French Socialists, is set to become prime minister. He would be the world's first openly gay man to lead a government, and the first Belgian prime minister from the country's French-speaking south since 1974.

Dubious record

Protesters hold up sign reading
The political gridlock set the record for longest period without a governmentImage: dpa

Parliamentary elections in June 2010 gave the largest share of votes to the New Flemish Alliance, a Flemish nationalist party that has advocated for the partition of the bilingual country. Disagreements over regional autonomy and taxes kept the various parties from coming together, and now, 17 months later, the country is still being led by a transitional caretaker government.

Bart de Wever, leader of the New Flemish Alliance, broke with other parties this summer over a compromise agreement proposed by Di Rupo. Belgian political analysts have said de Wever could make things difficult for the new government.

The agreement over the weekend cuts 11.3 billion euros ($15.25 billion) from the budget and expects to reduce the national deficit to 2.8 percent of gross domestic product. The European Union had threatened Belgium with sanctions if it did not trim spending, and Standard & Poor's downgraded Belgian bonds from AA+ to AA, citing the political deadlock.

Author: Andrew Bowen (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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