English: Flanders (red) in Belgium and the European Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Belgium was unable to form a government for 541 days! What? How can they have been governmentless for so long? There was an ethnic standoff in Belgium’s parliament
. The French
and Flemish (Dutch) speaking communities* were divided and were not able to form a government… for about 18 consecutive months (demolishing Iraq’s record).
English: A graphical representation of the six biggest Flemish political parties and their results for the House of Representatives (Kamer). From 1978 to 2010, in percentages for the complete ‘Kingdom’. Nederlands: Een grafische voorstelling van de 6 grootste Vlaamse partijen en hun behaalde resultaten voor de Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers. Van 1978 tot en met 2010, uitgedrukt in procenten voor ‘Het Rijk’. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Why didn’t they hold new elections. Few people believes calling new elections would help. The Belgians
don’t have any truly national political parties, only regional (i.e., Flemish, French, etc.) parties. The Flemish-speaking separatist party (New Flemish Alliance
) is quite popular and there are deep divisions between the parties. If they held new elections, the results would likely have been the same (as the one that created the stalemate) or the more extreme populist parties would have gained ground.
Things continued to function, more or less, on auto-pilot. Civil servants showed up to work. Governmental power was already somewhat decentralized from the national government to the French and Flemish speaking parts of the country. These separate divisions continued to function. Also, Belgium is part of the European Union which exerted power (ironically from Brussels).
Elio Di Rupo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was finally resolved when a Flemish separatist party left negotiations in the hope of provoking new elections. The move backfired when another party managed to cobble together a new government when Belgium’s debt was downgraded last month. Their new leader is Elio Di Rupo.
I love Belgium. It is a fantastic country. To celebrate Belgium’s new government (and aid you in your holiday beverage selections), I am declaring this coming week Belgian Beer Week. Cheers! Sante! Op uw gezondheid! Proust!
*Cyclist Philippe Gilbert just won an award for his bravery uniting his fellow Belgians, both Flemish and French.
**Mr. Di Rupo is the country’s first openly gay leader and the second openly gay leader of a country (after Johanna Sigurdardottir of Iceland).
I was going to post this early last week. On the way home, I heard on the radio that a gunman in Liege, Belgium opened fire on a crowd. The gunman killed six (seven including himself), and injured 121 people. Words can’t properly express the tragedy and sorrow created by this senseless act.