Belgian King names new govt after 18-month crisis

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 10:09

Brussels: Belgian King Albert II named
Socialist Elio Di Rupo to head a new government, turning the page on 540 days without a government - the longest political
crisis in the country`s history.

A palace statement said "the King this evening received
Elio Di Rupo at Belvedere castle and named him prime
minister."

The sovereign, on the new premier`s suggestion, approved
a slimmed-down cabinet line-up of 12 ministers and six
secretaries of state to take over from a caretaker government
headed by Yves Leterme.

Belgium`s longstanding finance minister Didier Reynders,
53, will swap portfolios with 47-year-old foreign minister
Steven Vanackere in the new coalition government, to be
officially sworn in at the palace on Wednesday afternoon.

The ceremony will bring relief to Belgium`s 10.5 million
people exasperated by the endless squabbling between
politicians that won Belgium the dubious record of the world`s
country longest without a government.

In a nation increasingly divided by its language barrier,
the coalition put together by Di Rupo comprises parties
ranging from centre-left to centre-right from both southern
French-speaking Wallonia and wealthier Dutch-speaking
Flanders.

Portfolios too have been evenly split between the two
language communities and the parties.

Di Rupo, a 60-year-old career politician born into a poor
family of migrant Italian coalminers, will be the first
French-speaking premier in more than three decades and the
first Socialist at the helm since 1974.

Rarely seen without a bow-tie, he will also be Europe`s
second openly gay head of government after Iceland`s premier.

Di Rupo has been negotiating for weeks to hammer out an
agreement to reduce the deficit, reform the economy, and
devolve power to the two bickering language regions -- and a
small German-speaking community.

After a June 2010 election failed to produce a workable
government, feuding politicians squabbled for 18 months to
bring together a coalition.

With the debt crisis spreading across the eurozone like
wildfire, they finally set aside their quarrels last week
after Belgium`s borrowing costs soared and ratings giant
Standard & Poor`s cut its credit score from AA+ to AA.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 10:09

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