Belgium forms government after 9-month crisis
Belgium's political parties announced Tuesday they had reached a deal to form a new national government, ending a nine-month political stalemate that had threatened to split the country along linguistic lines. ( AP )
Prime Minister-designate Yves Leterme, whose Flemish Christian Democrats won elections last June, announced an accord for a five-party coalition after all-night talks.
"I can confirm that the five parties have reached a government deal which includes a lot of concrete measures," Leterme said.
Leterme is expected to be sworn in Thursday by King Albert II. His government will then face a confidence in vote chambers of parliament the same day.
Speaking on VRT radio, Leterme said he was confident a majority of both Flemish and Walloon - French-speaking - lawmakers would back the five-party coalition.
The agreement came after months of arduous political wrangling that plunged the country into a political crisis over divisions on reforms meant to devolve more powers to Dutch-speaking Flanders and Francophone Wallonia.
The crisis raised fears the nation's two linguistic halves no longer shared the same vision or goals and would split, dissolving Belgium.
Leterme's efforts to form a government collapsed in December after he failed to get Francophone parties to commit to shift more powers to Flanders and Wallonia. French-speakers fear that a devolution would cut funding to the poorer Wallonia and from the bilingual capital, Brussels.
Leterme's five-party government plan leaves out any mention of constitutional reform for increased devolution.
His government plan, which still must be approved, makes vague promises to get tougher on immigration, cut taxes and boost pension benefits amid worries the country is headed for an economic slump.
Leterme's Flemish Christian Democratic party emerged as the big winner in the June 10 election, but will have to rely on its linguistic opposites - the Francophone Liberal Democrats, Socialists and Christian Democrats - for support in the coalition. The only other Flemish party to join the coalition will be Verhofstadt's Liberal Democrats.