Dummies substituted for politicians in Belgium on the day the country ties Iraq for the record time without a new government: 289 days. Many of them throwing shoes at the dummies, some 10,000 Belgians were protesting a failure by their federal government and the regional government of Flanders to agree on rights for health care workers.
One protester said: “It’s high time they do something about this. We want a salary increase and more staff, otherwise we can’t work properly.”
Caretaker prime minister Yves Leterme continues to hold the fort, yet says there is no knowing for how long that might be: ‘‘It’s very difficult to predict… at least a question of weeks. Will it be months? The future will tell.’‘
Flemish nationalists on Sunday marched to chants of ‘Down with Belgium!’ The political deadlock centres on Belgium’s linguistic and economic divide. The Flemish in the north complain they are subsidising French-speaking Wallonia in the south.
Better-natured but no less fed up, students marked their frustration with their politicians by eating chips, for which Belgium is famous. Theoretically, a continuation of the political stalemate could result in splitting the country up, although most Belgians say they do not want that.