It's been nearly five months since the June 10th general election. Since then Belgium's bickering political leaders have failed to form a government due to the French/Flemish divide.
Belgium's bickering political leaders face a crunch week as the divided country reaches a new record time to form a new government on Tuesday.
Nearly five months since a June 10 general election, Belgium on Monday matched the record of 148 days without a new government dating from 1988.
Pressure is growing on election winner and leading Flemish politician Yves Leterme, who holds the uneviable task of leading negotiations to get deeply divided Dutch and French speaking parties to form an alliance.
Leterme, the most likely candidate for prime minister, has held talks with heads of the major parties in hope of getting a breakthrough before Wednesday on the highly emotional issue of French-speakers' voting rights in the Flemish suburbs of Brussels.
The failure to hammer out a coalition has fuelled speculation that the country could split along the linguistic faultline of its richer Dutch speaking half and the poorer French speaking half.
Over the past 40 years, the country has increasingly struggled to form new governments amid tensions between Dutch speakers, who make up 60 percent of the population of 10.5 million, and French speakers.
Coalition talks are focused on whether French-speakers in the Flemish suburbs of Brussels should continue to have the right to vote for Francophone politicians outside their districts. Many Flemish believe they should not have this right.
If Leterme fails to broker a solution before Wednesday Flemish parties are likely to vote for a reform, which could scupper his efforts to form a coalition and plunge the country deeper into deadlock.
"I don't see any miracles," said Flemish Christian Democrat heavyweight Eric Van Rompuy.
The head of the centrist Francophone CdH party Joelle Milquet struck a slightly more upbeat tone. "If everybody decides to take balanced positions we'll find a way out."
Leterme's Flemish Christian Democrats, which came out on top in the June 10 election, campaigned at the time for more powers, especially on the economy, to be devolved to regional governments.
However, the issue is highly sensitive in the poorer Wallonia, the francophone southern half of Belgium, because many French-speaking politicians fear that it would mark the first step to a possible split.
If the face of such hurdles, it is becoming increasingly pressing for a new government to formed, especially because no budget has yet been drawn up for 2008.
While coalition talks rumble on, day-to-day business continues to be managed by the outgoing government of Guy Verhofstadt but he does not have the power to undertake any new policy initiatives.
Despite the air of crisis, most Belgians appear relaxed about the situation.
Among the few signs of growing public concern is a number of Belgian national flags some individuals have planted on their balconies and windows, mainly in Brussels. ( F24 )