Belgium gets new interim government six months after polls

A new interim Belgium government, led by Flemish Liberal Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, was formally sworn in on Friday after six months of political paralysis.

Belgium gets new interim government six months after polls
Belgium's main political parties have struggled since the June 10 general election to form a new coalition government amid deep divisions between the country's Dutch and French speaking politicians.

King Albert II called this month on Verhofstadt, who led the outgoing cabinet, to form an interim government to deal with urgent business.

Verhofstadt and his 13-member cabinet were formally sworn in by the monarch, the royal palace said, two days after putting together a five-party coalition from both linguistic communities.

Verhofstadt has said the interim administration will not last beyond March 23.

The 54-year-old prime minister, who has been in office since 1999, and his Flemish Liberals performed badly in the June polls but his outgoing cabinet handled day-to-day business as coalition talks rumbled on.

During the ensuing 194 days a number of pressing matters needing to be resolved -- starting with a budget for 2008 -- have piled up, making it necessary to form a more powerful interim government.

The interim Christian Democrat/Liberal/Socialist cabinet includes as vice prime minister and budget minister Yves Leterme, whose Flemish Christian Democrats came out on top in the election but whose efforts to form a government afterwards failed.

Leterme, who remains favourite to head a definitive government by March, is notably in charge of the "institutional reforms" which sparked the political rows that have stymied attempts to form such a coalition.

The main reform is the devolution of federal powers to the regions. Parties in Flanders are keen on assuming more powers while those in the French-speaking south fear both political and economic losses.

Leader of French-speaking liberals Didier Reynders will retain his previous post as finance minister and he will also be a vice prime minister, the Royal Palace said.

Belgium set a new European record in early January for the longest period without a new government, topping the Netherlands' best of 208 days in 1977.

Under Belgium's federal system, the government is led by a coalition of parties from Flanders -- home to about 60 percent of the population -- and Wallonia.


Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Aralık 2007, 19:27
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