Skip to comments.Belgium PM to resign after conservatives make big gains in general elections
Posted on 06/10/2007 11:47:37 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt planned to tender his governments resignation Monday, one day after a general election in which conservatives - led by Christian Democrats - dealt his Socialist-Liberal coalition a stunning defeat.
As votes were still being counted Sunday, Verhofstadt, 54, conceded defeat, saying he would leave the limelight after eight years as prime minister.
"The voters of our country...have opted for a different majority," he said.
That majority faces a difficult agenda that is bound to be dominated by steps to grant further autonomy to Flanders, Belgiums Dutch-speaking northern half, and Wallonia, its francophone south.
Since the 1980s, the two regions have been given far-reaching powers of self-rule to end endless linguistic squabbles.
Politicians, especially in economically dominant, free trade-minded Flanders - home to 60 per cent of the 10.5 million Belgians - routinely demand more self-rule, notably in economic areas. They complain the long-dominant socialists in Wallonia are a hidebound lot who resist labour and other changes that are common elsewhere in Europe.
Guy Leterme - head of the Dutch-speaking Christian Democrats and possibly Belgiums next premier - signalled Sunday that Belgians want their next government to separate Dutch and French-speakers more than they already are.
That would be a new tack since Verhofstadts outgoing government focused mostly on restoring Belgium to economic health and growth by slashing debt and annual budget deficits.
With 90 per cent of votes counted throughout Belgium, Letermes Christian Democrats won eight seats and control 30 in the 150-seat House of Representatives, or 20 per cent.
The Francophone liberals were the only coalition party to hold their own and become the second-biggest party with 23 seats, ahead of the socialists who dropped five to 20, losing their long domination over the Francophone south.
Verhofstadts Flemish liberals have 18 seats, a loss of seven, while the Flemish Socialists had the worst crash, dropping nine seats to fall to 14.
The result made a further revision of the constitution a priority again. Once a unitary kingdom, powers have steadily flowed to the linguistic regions since the 1960s, when a linguistic frontier cutting through the country was approved.
"It is absolutely necessary that in the years ahead we shift" more economic powers to Flanders and Wallonia, said Leterme.
Independence-minded parties in Flanders also posted gains Sunday, adding to the groundswell.
The far-right Flemish Interest party had a small increase in votes but lost a seat to fall to 17. Jean-Marie Dedecker, an independent newcomer, immediately won five seats with his populist appeal.
Green parties scored something of a comeback but remained small factions.
The post of prime minister has been held by a Dutch-speaker for the last 33 years. In Wallonia, politicians have been pushing for a francophone prime minister.
Voting is mandatory for Belgiums 7.7 million voters, with all 150 seats in the House of Representatives and 40 of the 71 Senate seats at stake.
Flemings can only vote for Flemish parties and Walloon voters only for Francophone parties, except for the area in and around the bilingual capital Brussels, where parties from both languages are on the list.
Leterme has said he wants changes to the constitution to give Flanders more autonomy to run its employment and economic affairs.
Any changes to the constitution would require a two-thirds majority in both the Flemish and the Francophone parts of the country.
The vote capped a campaign that centred largely on personalities rather than issues.
Verhofstadt predicted during the campaign that voting his Liberals out of office would lead to a return to state intervention in the economy and higher taxes.
“Since the 1980s, the two regions have been given far-reaching powers of self-rule to end endless linguistic squabbles.
Politicians, especially in economically dominant, free trade-minded Flanders - home to 60 per cent of the 10.5 million Belgians - routinely demand more self-rule, notably in economic areas. They complain the long-dominant socialists in Wallonia are a hidebound lot who resist labour and other changes that are common elsewhere in Europe.”
I was in Belgium not last week. That’s a soft version of the truth - the reality is that the Flemish had been linguistically oppressed by the French speakers. Now the majority, the Flemish are demanding their place at the table.
Another thing: among the Flemish I spoke with, the Walloons are a cartoonish stereotype of loafing Gauls. Apparently the southern sector consumes more welfare dollars than it produces, pissing off the hard-working Flemish to no end.
For balance, consider the equation: northern Belgium, on the North Sea coast, is a merchant and pastoral area, and likes to flex its economic muscle after being put down by the Dutch until 1830. The southern part of the country, with its French influence, is more industrialized and thus suceptible to socialism and the union’s hand.
I thought France was beyond help, but they seem to have voted big for reform this week and last month. Looks like the Flemish aren’t going to hang around until their southern compatriots need the whip of reform.
“The vote capped a campaign that centred largely on personalities rather than issues.”
Why do I think we’ll see a report like this after the 2008 presidential election?
DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH
and there are no good arguments for insisting upon ONE COMMON NATIONAL LANGUAGE
also learn to think like the Wall Street Journal that a nation is really just a territory in which economic activity tales place and Supply and Demand for Labor are essentially the only considerations in considering Immigration policy. Don’t let concepts like History, Culture, Custom, Language, Religion, Education etc concern you at all. Just let the labor market sort things out.
[need I say sarcasm?]
Why do I think well see a report like this after the 2008 presidential election?
I hope we see it. If the MSM is reporting that "the American people have finally voted with seriousness based on the issues" it will be because a Democrat has won.