Belgium government wins confidence vote

Last Updated: Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 22:42

Brussels: Belgium`s new government won a
parliamentary confidence vote on Saturday, the last hurdle in
resolving a political crisis in the linguistically divided
country that lasted a record-breaking 541 days.

Of 143 deputies present, 89 voted in favour of the
six-party administration headed by Elie Di Rupo, a
French-speaking socialist, with 54, notably Flemish
separatists, against.

Di Rupo`s government of six ministers from thriving
Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and six from struggling
French-speaking Wallonia in the south was sworn in on Tuesday
but faces an uphill battle to tackle problems at the root of
the deadlock.

As divisions sharpen between its two parts, the country
that plays host to global institutions such as the European
Union and NATO is struggling to remain united around a joint
political and economic vision.

The 6.5 million people of Flanders resent funding the 4.5
million of southern Wallonia, and the government was only
formed when the powerful separatist N-VA party was excluded
from the lengthy coalition talks.

The N-VA, which refuses to call Di Rupio prime minister,
the extreme right Flemish Vlaams Belang, a French-speaking
federalist party and the Greens of both communities voted
against the government today.

In his speech before the vote Di Rupo pledged, "We will
be the government of profound and lasting change, but without
breaking our social model, our life in common and our federal
model."

He is Belgium`s first French-speaking premier in more
than three decades and the first socialist at its helm since
1974.

Top of his agenda is a planned 11.3 billion euros in
budget cuts, the toughest austerity measures in 70 years.

It took soaring borrowing costs and a Standard & Poor`s
downgrade from AA+ to AA late last month to jolt Belgium`s
politicians to put aside their differences and clinch a
coalition deal.

With debt at 96 per cent of GDP last year, just behind
Greece and Italy in the eurozone, the coalition has pledged to
balance the books by 2015 but many economists say Belgium
might not achieve the 0.8 per cent growth the budget foresees.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, December 10, 2011 - 22:42

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