337 days and counting: is Belgium finally on the cusp of forming a government? - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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337 days and counting: is Belgium finally on the cusp of forming a government?

Monday, 16 May 2011
This morning in the Metro, after skipping past the unusually large number of pages dedicated to Lady Gaga, I came across an article entitled “Elio Di Rupo formateur” which was strangely optimistic about Belgium finally forming a government.

The article reports that the Belgian King Albert II has called on Mr Di Rupo, a French-speaking socialist, to form a government. “The King this evening received Mr Elio Di Rupo at the Château de Laeken. He charged him with the task of forming a government and instructed him to undertake all useful initiatives to this effect. Mr Di Rupo accepted this mission,” read a short statement posted on the Monarch’s website.

Di Rupo's Socialist party led the field in the French-speaking south Belgium (Wallonia) at the inclusive general elections on 13th June last year that failed to produce an outright majority, and the new formateur has urged a plea to all parties to show a spirit of compromise — and a willingness to fundamentally change the country — "as if it were our last chance".

Mr Di Rupo has already tried once to form a coalition since last June but has been granted another go – but the impression is that the process is more advanced than it was previously. This is due to Belgium's complex process for forming a government in which the king appoints a preformateur to begin negotiations amongst all the parties and then a formateur to actually build a coalition. Until this week, the Monarch had only appointed preformateurs and they all failed to find a consensus, but now Di Rupo has been appointed a formateur, suggesting either that prospects for a new government are improving.

Should Di Rupo accomplish what has been quickly dubbed "mission impossible" by the Belgian media, he would become the first French-speaking Belgian Prime Minister in 32 years.

However, it is unlikely that he will be able to form a government before Thursday 2nd June. That particular date holds special significance since it will be the 354th day since the June elections of 2010 thus Belgium will finally become the undisputed world record holder as the country that has gone the longest without a government.

In the meantime, outgoing Prime Minister Yves Leterme will stay on in the caretaker role.

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