Belgian King Albert accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme's five-month-old government on Monday, plunging the country into a crisis that could harm its economic recovery and its standing in Europe.
The monarch asked Leterme, 49, to stay on in a caretaker capacity, the palace said in a short statement four days after the coalition collapsed over a standoff between Dutch- and French-speaking parties.
The king had tried to defuse the situation over the weekend, consulting with party leaders and asking Finance Minister Didier Reynders, a French speaker, to try to mediate and break the impasse. Reynders asked to be discharged on Monday.
Unless the king comes up with a new initiative, Belgium appears headed for an early election before the next scheduled one in 2011.
That could throw into chaos Belgium's preparations for its six-month presidency of the European Union, due to start in July.
Economists are concerned that political paralysis in the country of 10.6 million people could harm efforts to bring its national debt back below 100 percent of gross domestic product.
GDP fell 3.0 percent last year and is likely to grow a modest 1.0 percent in 2010. The budget deficit for this year is put at 4.8 percent of GDP.
Leterme tendered his resignation on Thursday after the Flemish liberal party, Open VLD, withdrew from his government.
Open VLD said it had lost faith in the coalition over a failure to resolve a dispute between French- and Dutch-speaking parties over electoral boundaries around the capital, Brussels.
ReutersLast Mod: 27 Nisan 2010, 08:56