It is back to square one for Belgium as political leaders admit defeat in trying to form a coalition government. The leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Yves Leterme, has pulled out of coalition talks for the second time. He has been holding talks with other Dutch-speaking and French-speaking centre-right parties since inconclusive elections in June.
But after informing the Belgian King, Leterme confirmed the parties had been unable to reach agreement on the key issue of devolving more power to the regions. The breakdown in talks comes against the backgroud of rising tensions between the country’s two main linguistic communities. It is likely to fuel speculation Belgian could break into two parts.
In recent weeks thousands of Belgians have taken to the streets, urging their politicians not to allow this to happen. Analysts believe Belgium will remain united despite growing strains, partly because separating the institutions and sharing the heavy national debt would be extremely difficult.
But it is not all clear where the country goes from here. King Albert persuaded Leterme to try again after he withdrew from talks in August. There is little to suggest he will have similar success this time.