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Belgian politics still in limbo, three months after elections

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By Richard Good
Belgian politics still in limbo, three months after elections

Three months after federal and regional elections Belgium still doesn’t have a ruling majority. There have always been divisions between Flemish and Francophones - but in the last election, they grew.

The nationalist right and extreme right prevailed in the Flemish north of the country. In Wallonia, the majority voted for the socialist party and the greens.

"There are two major problems,” says Pascal Delwit from the Brussels Free University. “The first is the thrust of parties on the periphery of the system that can’t be part of a federal majority. The Radical Right and the Radical Left Party have 30 seats out of 150. Which means you have to find a majority of 76 out of the remaining 120. And in these 120 you have parties that are almost diametrically opposed to one another."

Belgium already holds the record for the longest ever political stalemate - it took 541 days to negotiate a coalition in 2010 and 2011.

But observers believe the current situation is fundamentally different. The previous coalition collapsed when Flemish nationalists opposed the UN's Marrakech pact on migration.

And making the situation more complicated, current Prime Minister Charles Michel and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders are taking up new EU posts in the coming weeks.

"Possibly, a complication can be an opportunity,” says Pascal Delwit. “That is, the appointment of the Prime Minister of an interim government on a day-to-day business may possibly be a lever for the construction of a majority. This is one of the hypotheses circulating in certain circles that, out of this new distribution between the Presidency of the Council, the European Commission and the Prime Minister’s office, a federal majority might emerge"

External factors could also push political parties to compromise. Challenges such as the environment, Brexit or the risk of a recession in Germany could force Belgian lawmakers to seek stability.

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