Plunging Back into Crisis Belgian Premier Leterme Submits Resignation

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme has tendered his resignation, plunging the linguistically divided country back into political crisis. His cabinet had failed to agree on a constitutional reform that would have devolved more power to the regions.


Belgium's Prime Minister Yves Leterme after offering his resignation to the king.
REUTERS

Belgium's Prime Minister Yves Leterme after offering his resignation to the king.

Belgians woke up to a case of déjà-vu on Tuesday morning, learning that Prime Minister Yves Leterme had resigned overnight, plunging the country into yet another political crisis.

Leterme had offered to resign after failing to meet a deadline to reconcile parties from both sides of Belgium's linguistic divide on a path to reform the federal state.

King Albert II is now "weighing" whether to accept the resigination and has begun consulting with political leaders on how to resolve the crisis.

Leterme said in a statement that the "communities' conflicting visions of how to give a new equilibrium to our state have become incompatible," adding that the "federal model has reached its limit."

Francophone parties accuse Dutch-speakers of wanting to split up the country, while parties from Flanders, home to Belgium's Dutch speakers, want greater regional autonomy. French-speaking Wallonia has a unemployment rate of 15 percent, three times higher than prosperous Flanders. A recent poll found that 49.7 percent of Flemish people, who make up about 60 percent of the country's population of 10.5 million, are in favor of splitting Belgium in two.

Leterme, a Flemish conservative, took office on March 20 and he had set himself a July 15 deadline to reconcile the parties in his fractious coalition of Christian Democrats, Socialists and Liberals and nationalist hard-liners from both sides of the linguistic divide.

Francophone Finance Minister Didier Reynders told Belgium's RTBF radio on Tuesday that Leterme's Christian Democrats and above all their nationalist allies, the New Flemish Alliance (NVA), had to realize they could not win all their demands for autonomy in a constitutional reform that would also be acceptable to French-speaking parties.

Belgium now enters a new period of political uncertainty following a period of relative stablity. After the June 10 elections last year the country had gone through a six-month period of crisis during which the parties failed to form a government.

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