The speaker of Belgium’s Parliament will begin work today on forming a new government, after stepping in to save the country from its third political crisis in a year. 61-year-old Herman Van Rompuy faces the twin challenges of bridging the country’s linguistic divide and tackling the fallout from the global financial meltdown. The Flemish Christian-Democrat is expected to maintain the existing five party coalition of outgoing Prime Minister, Yves Leterme.
But he is a rather reluctant political saviour – having repeatedly insisted, even on television, that he did not want the job. Van Rompuy was elected speaker in July 2007. A former Budget Minister, he is credited with reducing public debt in the 1990s. His appointment follows a six-day mediation mission by former Prime Minister Wilfried Martens. Belgian media said the biggest challenge he faced was persuading Van Rompuy to take the job.