Language-split Belgium teeters back into crisis
Belgium risked plunging into a fresh political crisis yesterday after attempts to form a coalition government collapsed amid allegations Flemish nationalists were not committed to keeping the country together.
Tough-talking Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, whose separatist N-VA party won last month's general election, has been tasked by the king to form a coalition government.
But Centrist Benoit Lutgen refused to join the proposed coalition, saying he had failed to win assurances that De Wever would keep the language-divided nation intact.
A De Wever-led government would be "a Belgo-sceptic project," Lutgen told Belgian broadcaster RTL late Tuesday. "The wolf does not become a lamb in a few weeks."
The fear is that Belgium repeats the crisis of four years ago when a record-breaking impasse left the country 541 days without a government.
The N-VA won 32 percent of the vote in Flanders, making it the most popular party.
On Tuesday, De Wever submitted a 20-page outline for three potential coalition partners, inviting them to enter exclusive talks to form a federal government.
The road map was swiftly agreed by Flemish Christian Democrats as well as liberal French-speakers, but Lutgen's last-minute refusal forces De Wever and the king back to the drawing board.
Under the country's traditions, the monarch oversees the formation of new governments, guiding the country's parties towards compromise.