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Belgium's new leader will have complex problem to solve

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Belgium's new leader will have complex problem to solve


Whoever ends up with the responsibility for forming a new government in Belgium will have a challenge on his hands. On the face of it, the man with the strongest suit to play is Yves Leterme, leader of the Flemish christian democrats. Although the election produced winners and losers, the complexities of the political system means everything has yet to be resolved.

“Its quite ridiculous,” said a man in Brussels. “Just as we are getting involved in Europe, tackling emplyment on a regional basis, we are going to be splitting apart. Foreigners have never heard of Wallonia and Flanders.”

Leterme’s Christian-Democrats are the single biggest party nationally. He has always made it clear that a government controlled by him would aim to make regions more independent, while reducing federal structures.

Leterme said: “The problem is indeed, in fact, for the moment, totally different economic evolution and so to tackle this situation, we have to give more possibilities to the region to have their own policies, because the differences between the economic situation in Flanders and in Brussels and Wallonia are very real. It is very difficult to have this in the same country, so we have to solve this problem.”

A complicating factor is that to change the way the country is set up, a two-thirds majority is needed in parliament. In pratice it would mean involving
the socialists, many of them French speakers. But following their reverse in sundays poll, the socialists announced they would be going into the opposition.

Another outcome might be a blue-orange alliance, including the liberals and the christian democrats. But the marked political differences the Flemish and Walloon wings of the parties could make that difficult.

“In Flanders nearly 80 percent of the people are right wing.” says Caroline Sgesser, a political analyst. “In Wallonia despite the loss by the socialists, predominantly Wallonia remains with a majority from the left. And that is another reason why the differences between Flanders and Wallonia are becoming increasingly difficult to come across in a national government building.”

Yet another factor is the rule under which there has to be an even balance of French and Flemish speakers as government ministers.

Finding a solution is likely to be fiendishly complex.

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