Belgium Gets Six-Party Coalition Government After Record 18-Month Standoff
Belgium will get a full-time government as soon as today, ending a record 540 days of post- election brinksmanship between the Dutch-speaking north and French south that kindled speculation of a national breakup at the heart of Europe.
The power struggle between the richer Dutch and industrially depressed French region was only resolved as the European economic crisis deepened, leading to a cut in Belgium’s credit rating, a lurch upward in its borrowing costs and the demise of its biggest bank, Dexia SA. (DEXB)
The job of keeping Belgium intact and shaving Europe’s fifth-highest debt load falls to a six-party coalition headed by Elio Di Rupo, 60, the first native French speaker to run the country since the 1970s.
“Our country needs a government, a genuine government, a government of the center,” Benoit Lutgen, head of the French- speaking Center Democratic Humanist party, said on Belgian television yesterday. “Our country has changed and it will change again.”
The six parties endorsed the governing program over the weekend. One final marathon bargaining session — this time over the cabinet lineup — went through the night, with no nominations as of 11 a.m. in Brussels. A deal would be followed, possibly later today, by the swearing-in by King Albert II at his Brussels castle and a policy presentation by Di Rupo to the parliament.
“The accord gives a necessary, hopeful, just, wise and prudent response to the challenges of tomorrow,” Wouter Beke, head of the Dutch-speaking CD&V conservative party, said yesterday. “We have to bite into the sour apple now and create a perspective for what will come next.”
The government faces the immediate task of enacting a pledged 11.3 billion euros ($15 billion) in spending cuts and tax increases to pare the deficit to 2.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2012 as demanded by the European Union.
Belgian borrowing costs spiralled higher as the political inertia combined with the escalation of the European debt crisis. At their peak on Nov. 25, 10-year bond yields reached 5.86 percent, the highest at the end of a trading day in 11 years, and Belgium’s extra borrowing rates over German levels hit 360 basis points.