With just nine weeks to go before Belgium adopts the rotating EU presidency, the country once again finds itself without a permanent government.
Yesterday the King accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme, who has failed to unite Belgium’s French- and Dutch-speaking factions. It is the second time in three years that Leterme has stepped down from the post.
His coalition collapsed after just five months when the Open VLD party pulled out. Open VLD claimed it had lost faith in the coalition’s ability to resolve a long-standing dispute over electoral boundaries in Brussels, where French-speakers and Dutch-speakers live together but with different voting rights.
Meanwhile, voices calling for the country to split are growing louder. Last week the Vlaams Belang party took banners into parliament to emphasise their demand for an independent Dutch-speaking Flanders.
Some Belgians do remain optimistic. One woman in Brussels said:
“Maybe we need to do something out of the ordinary; we need to find more creative solutions. But I’m a big believer in Belgian consensus building and the Belgian ability to compromise. And I hope we can find a compromise as soon as possible.”
Unless some imaginative solution presents itself, the country looks headed for early elections next month.
If a government does emerge from that vote, it will be the fifth attempt at a coalition since December 2007.