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Belgian coalition talks begin after separatist win

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Belgian coalition talks begin after separatist win


Belgium’s royal palace is hosting post-election horse-trading after a party seeking the country’s gradual disappearance won this weekend’s poll.

Victorious Flemish separatists, the N-VA, are the key players as King Albert leads talks to form a coalition government. The party’s calls to split Belgium on linguistic lines have alarmed some but its leader has shown willingness to build bridges.

‘‘If it is necessary to create trust, to have the reforms we need in this country, I am ready to offer the job of prime minister to a French-speaking person,” said N-VA boss Bart De Wever.

The leading candidate is Elio Di Rupo, who heads the French-speaking Socialists. They won the vote in the southern Francophone region of Wallonia. Di Rupo would become Belgium’s first francophone premier since 1974. But, in return, the Socialists would be under pressure to agree to NVA demands for greater devolution.

Analyst Pascal Delwit believes Belgium is heading towards a deeply-rooted federal model. At present, he says its regions and communities lack the powers held by German states or Canadian provinces.

The strongest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders, the NVA also won the most votes in Belgium as a whole. Its success does nothing to allay concerns that the country will divide one day.

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