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Dubious record

February 17, 2011

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 partiesImage: AP

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 monthImage: AP

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