Belgium plunged into crisis as PM offers resignation
Brussels: Belgium plunged into political
crisis on Thursday as Prime Minister Yves Leterme threw in the towel
-- for the third time -- after a key Flemish party quit his
The situation was in flux, however, as the king delayed a
decision on whether to accept Laterme's resignation saying a
political crisis would "seriously threaten" Belgium's role in
Europe two months before the country assumes the EU
Flemish Christian democrat Leterme informed King Albert
II of his decision to quit, after just five months at the
helm, from the job he inherited from predecessor Herman Van
Rompuy who left to become the first EU president.
Leterme's decision was forced when his Flemish liberal
allies, the Open VLD, quit the five-party coalition Thursday
over a long-running row between the country's Dutch-speaking
and francophone communities over electoral rules in
flash-point suburbs of Brussels.
The political crisis also made it unlikely that Belgian
lawmakers would hold a much-anticipated vote today on imposing
a ban on wearing the Islamic burqa in public.
"There was no other choice but for the government to
resign," Finance Minister Didier Reynders told reporters after
the Open VLD party withdrew its support.
The fresh explosion of deep-seated tensions between the
richer Dutch-speaking Flemish and poorer francophone region of
Wallonia to the south casts a cloud over attempts by Belgium
to set an assertive agenda ahead of assuming the EU's rotating
presidency on July 1.