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Testing the borders of absurdity

April 29, 2010

The Belgian language communities: Dutch-speaking (Flemish) areas in gold, French speaking (Walloon) areas in red, German-speaking areas in blue. The red-and-gold striped dot in the upper middle of the country is the blingual area surrounding Brussels. Map: Lennart Bolks (public domain).

Last Thursday, Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme resigned after his coalition government fell apart.  This is the third time in two years that Leterme has offered his resignation to the Belgian king, and the country is now on the verge of a political crisis. Again.

The coalition fell apart after Flemish liberal party Open VLD, withdrew over a dispute on how to split the kieskring – electoral district – Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde (known as BHV).  The withdrawal and the collapse of the ruling coalition comes after years of heated dispute on voting rights  in the primarily Dutch-speaking areas around the Belgian capital Brussels.

– There was no other choice but for the government to resign, Belgian finance minister Didier Reynders told BBC.

This is certainly not the first time a row between Dutch and French-speaking politicians in Belgium  has  thrown the little country into a political crisis. However, the current crisis comes at a particularly bad time, as Belgium is due to take over the presidency of the European Union in a couple of months. Solving the situation is clearly an urgent matter, but as of yet, there is no evident solution in sight.

When a government falls, and there is no alternative coalition, the logical thing to do is to hold a new election, Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad writes (in Dutch, of course). However the very nature of the current political crisis might make a new election unconstitutional. As the politicians have found no solution when it comes to the arrangements for the electoral district Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde, an election would take place in a juridical vacuum, making it both unconstitutional and illegal.

It is hard not to agree with columnist Bart Sturtewagen in Belgian newspaper De Standaard: This country is testing the borders of absurdity.

UPDATE: For my last post on Belgium, I – or Swedish rock band The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, to be specific – provided a sort of one  song soundtrack; “Heading for a breakdown”. For this post, I have compiled an entire playlist! Like Belgium itself, it is made up of groups with rather different cultural heritages, singing in three different languages. And, like the little plagued country, it can seem rather chaotic at first, but does contain some rather enjoyable stuff. ‘Nuff said, time to listen!

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