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samedi, 24 avril 2010

Belgian stalemate

Belgian Stalemate: King Prohibits Parliament from Convening, Prevents BHV Vote and Burka Ban

belgiancrisis.jpgBelgium, the state of origin of EU president Herman Van Rompuy, is proving its status of non-country once again. For the fifth time since he was elected in 2007 the prime minister Yves Leterme, a Christian Democrat of Van Rompuy’s party, has either failed to put or keep a government together. Yesterday, he submitted his resignation to the King after one of his Flemish coalition parties, the Liberal VLD, withdrew from the government.

Leterme resigned after the umpteenth deadline had expired within which he had promised to settle the issue of the unconstitional electoral district of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (generally referred to as BHV). All that is needed to settle this issue is a vote in parliament. At the committee level this vote has already been passed, with a majority voting to separate the Flemish (linguistically and territorially) towns of Halle and Vilvoorde from the electoral district of the bilingual capital of Brussels. To prevent the vote from being passed in the general assembly, the francophone parties of Wallonia and Brussels employed a number of procedures, buying time for the government to negotiate a “solution” where the Flemish would be put under pressure to make political, financial or territorial concessions to the francophones in exchange for a redrawing of BHV.

Leterme’s latest attempt failed, again because the francophone parties have no intention of settling the issue at all and are making demands that would undo five decades of careful constitutional reform and upset the precarious political balance. However, the monarchy has come to the rescue. After receiving Leterme, he refused to accept the resignation and immediately summoned the Speaker of the Belgian parliamant, Patrick Dewael, a member of the VLD, and put him under pressure not to convene parliament, and so to prevent any initiative that might lead to the BHV issue being tabled and voted in the general assembly.

By preventing Parliament from convening the King also thwarted the final vote on the burka ban, which was scheduled for yesterday.

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