Still no government in Belgium, one year on from election
Jun 13, 2011, 9:35 GMT
Brussels - Belgians on Monday awoke to the one-year anniversary of their last election with still no new government in sight for the western European country.
A rift between Belgium's Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia has brought negotiations over forming a government to a standstill since the elections on June 13, 2010.
Flemish and Walloon politicians have tried seven times to resolve their differences and form a new government, with no success.
There appeared to be some progress in last month when King Albert II asked Elio Di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to make an eighth attempt at breaking the deadlock by 'forming' a government.
Previous mediators had only been assigned the task of trying to bridge differences between prospective coalition partners.
But there has been little movement since.
In the meantime, a caretaker government has continued to run the country's affairs under the leadership of Yves Leterme. Belgium even held the EU presidency for the second half of 2010.
The caretaker government has managed to secure ad-hoc majorities in parliament to get important legislation passed, meaning that the lack of a government has had little to no effect on the lives of ordinary Belgians.
Observers have said the country could 'technically' continue with a caretaker government until the next elections. There has been little public pressure to find a resolution, other than a 'French Fries Revolution' that saw students handing out French fries - a Belgian speciality.
Few Belgians, however, were pleased when Belgium received the dubious distinction of a Guinness World Record for being the country that has gone the longest without a government in times of peace.
There have also been concerns expressed about the effect the prolonged political crisis is having on the public's perception of politicians and about the risk of extremist views gaining ground.
Flemish separatists on Tuesday were due to celebrate the one-year anniversary by briefly renaming streets in the capital Brussels with the likes of 'Flemish Republic Street' and 'Flemish Liberty Street.'
With those symbolic acts, the separatist movement 'wants to tell passers-by and politicians that the solution to the current deadlock is the independence of Flanders,' according to local media.