Belgium has been plunged into a fresh political crisis after the government of Prime Minister Yves Leterme offered its resignation to King Albert II.
Leterme only became prime minister in March after nine months of deadlock between parties from either side of the country’s ethnic divide, which had led to speculation that the country might break up.
His Flemish Christian Democrats were the clear winners of the June 2007 election, with a pledge to grant more power to the regions, a move strongly opposed by French-speaking parties.
Agreement was reached on the budget as well as social and economic policy. However, Leterme repeatedly failed to break the stalemate over devolution and the thorny issue of electoral boundaries around the capital, Brussels. A deadline for agreement on that had been set for later today.
The government was backed by a coalition ranging from Conservatives to Liberals from both sides of the divide, as well as the Francophone Socialist Party.
Officials representing Belgium’s six and a half million Dutch-speakers and its four million Francophones both want more power for their communities.
Latest opinion polls suggest the government has suffered a six per cent drop in popularity since last year’s election.