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Belgium's Coalition Government Collapses


Belgium's coalition government collapsed for the second time in a little more than a year when a key party withdrew its support and Prime Minister Yves Leterme tendered his resignation.

It was not immediately clear whether Belgium's King Albert will accept Prime Minister Yves Leterme's resignation, following the collapse of his five-month-old coalition government. But it seems like an old story.

Mr. Leterme also resigned as prime minister in late 2008 over a banking scandal. He returned to power last November when former Prime Minister Herman van Rompuy was tapped to become the first, full-time head of the European Union.

This latest resignation is a fallout of Belgium's long-term power struggle between the country's French-speaking Walloons and Flemish-speaking majority.

The latest disagreement centers on special rights for Walloons living near Brussels. A key coalition member, the Flemish liberal Open VLD Party, pulled out of the government, frustrated over the failure to resolve the dispute.

The move drew an angry reaction from other members of the coalition. Speaking on Belgium television, Socialist Party member Laurette Onkelinx called Open VLD crazy.

Onkelinx said Belgium has terrible political and economic problems. She said the party is playing an irresponsible game that put the stability of Walloons and Flemmings at risk.

Another politician from the Humanist Democratic Center Party agreed the party had made a mistake. Many others called Open VLD irresponsible, a term echoed in an on-line editorial by Belgium's Le Soir newspaper.

The generally wealthier Flemish parts of Belgium have long demanded greater local powers. French regions fear the they are pushing for full autonomy.

Now, analysts wonder if this latest government collapse could damage Belgium's fragile recovery from the global economic downturn.

During his first term as prime minister, Mr. Leterme failed to resolve the political deadlock between Flemmings and Walloons. But the latest government crisis comes as Belgium prepares to take over the rotating European Union presidency in July.

It seems all the more ironic that Brussels is the administrative capital of the European Union, a body that seek greater unity among its 27 members.

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