Belgian lawmakers dissolved parliament on Thursday, triggering an election on June 13, just two weeks before the country takes on the rotating presidency of the European Union.
Belgium assumes the EU role on July 1 for a six-month period that typically gives a country a place on the world stage. Belgium's presidency risks being marked by political paralysis.
It is barely conceivable that a government will form by July 1 -- it took nine months to forge a coalition after the 2007 elections -- meaning Yves Leterme's caretaker administration with only limited powers will still be in charge.
Leterme's five-month-old government collapsed last month over a standoff between Dutch- and French-speaking parties.
An election by no means guarantees Belgium's linguistic divisions can be healed.
An opinion poll on Tuesday forecast that in Dutch-speaking Flanders, the N-VA, a party that wants Belgium to split, would receive the most votes. French-speaking leaders are already dreading the thought of working with the party.
Belgian governments are typically composed of Dutch- and French-speaking parties holding majorities in both linguistic regions.
Parliament's dissolution means that a controversial bill to ban wearing the Islamic veil in public will not become law in the coming months and would have to return to the relevant committee in the new parliament.
A planned annual tax for nuclear producers, notably French energy group GDF Suez, in return for extending the lives of three reactors is also in doubt. The deal struck between the goverment and the producers late last year has not yet been transformed into law.
Leterme tendered his resignation after the Flemish liberal party, Open VLD, said it had lost faith in the five-party coalition because of its failure to resolve a dispute over the electoral boundaries around Brussels -- a complex and extremely divisive issue.
A new government would be under pressure to resolve this and other matters, such as the transfer of further powers from central government to the regions.
Both houses of parliament on Thursday passed bills to give up to 2 billion euros ($2.68 billion) in loans to Greece and to reduce Belgium's budget deficit to 4.8 percent of gross domestic product this year, from a previous plan of 5.6 percent.
Finally, they approved a bill to revise parts of the constitution in the next legislative period, a vote that automatically leads to their dissolution.
An election must be held within 40 days.
ReutersLast Mod: 06 Mayıs 2010, 23:03