No coalition, no coitus: Belgium seeks sex solution (News Feature)
By Ben Nimmo Feb 11, 2011, 2:06 GMT
Brussels - No sex for Belgium's politicians until they finally form a government: that is just the most striking of the solutions being proposed to end the country's nearly nine-month long political stalemate.
Belgium held parliamentary elections on June 13, after the former government collapsed in a power struggle between parties of the Dutch-speaking majority and French-speaking minority.
But the poll only accentuated the divide, and after seven attempts to hammer out a coalition government, Belgium appears as far away from a deal as ever - much to the frustration of its people.
Step in Senator Marleen Temmerman, a gynaecologist whose name has suddenly become one of the top hits on Belgian websites after she suggested that women impose a sex strike until the row is ended.
'If we (women) all agree on sexual abstinence, I'm convinced that we could get the negotiations to move faster. We already know what men think of this,' she told radio station RTL.
Temmerman wrote in her column in the Dutch-language daily De Standaard that she had been inspired by a Kenyan women's movement which, in 2009, called for a sex strike to end the country's political impasse.
'One practical advantage: you don't have to come to Brussels to go on sex strike ... Whether you are a free-thinker, Catholic, Muslim or stalagmite, don't have any more sex until the new government stands on the steps of the palace,' she wrote in a tongue-in-cheek column.
The proposal itself was avowedly humorous - Greek comic playwright Aristophanes used the same idea in his comedy Lysistrata some 2,000 years ago - but it has found resonance in a nation in which 35,000 people recently marched through Brussels to demand a government.
Already, one local star, actor Benoit Poelvoorde, has urged Belgian men not to shave until the deadlock is ended.
Another set of activists has set up a satirical website - lerecorddumonde.be (the world record) - counting down the seconds until the Belgian crisis officially overtakes Iraq's 289-day interregnum to become the longest in recent world history.
'Three regions, three languages, loads of jerk politicians, (French) fries, beers, 10 million sheep and already owner of the European record. Very high potential. WE CAN,' the site proclaims.
However, the most creative solution might yet be found in political circles themselves, after King Albert II on February 2 nominated a sixth man - acting finance minister Didier Reynders - to try and hammer out a deal between the coalition parties.
Newspapers on Thursday reported that Reynders was planning to talk with two separate sets of parties about forming a government: one coalition to deal with economic issues, and the other with the power struggle between the communities.
The finance chief is expected to report to the king on February 16. Only then will it become clear which - if any - of the proposals to break the deadlock has borne fruit.
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