All for one Belgium and one Belgium for all, in Dutch and French, is the theme for around 500 Belgians who have been demonstrating in the student town of Leuven.
It marked what many say is an embarrassment, and irresponsible: a failure of language communities’ leaders to compromise.
Protest organiser Jean Gabriel said: “It’s now 249 days without a government, breaking the world record. We’re telling them ‘it’s about time you act responsibly to form a government; get over your divisions and arguments.’ You won’t find this political dispute among the population, or at least only minimally.’‘
Iraq took 249 days to get the outlines of a government last year, but approving it took a further 40 days.
Belgium’s latest negotiator in the let’s-form-a-government game is caretaker Finance Minister Didier Reynders. His chances of success are seen as razor thin.
New elections might be needed to break the deadlock. Day-to-day, the crisis is over whether to increase regional autonomy. This pits the leaders of six million Dutch-speaking Flemings against those of four-and-a-half million French-speaking Walloons.
Exasperated Belgians said ‘enough is enough’ using the Internet, and there were outdoor events across the country. While some used public nudity to encourage their politicians into action, others symbolised their unity with Belgium’s original national snack, calling this the ‘Fries Revolution’.