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Belgian Politician Gets Second Chance as PM

Yves Leterme and his government were sworn into office by King Albert of Belgium Wednesday afternoon, less than a week after his predecessor, Herman Van Rompuy, was tapped to be the European Union's first permanent president.

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Lisa Bryant

Flemish politician Yves Leterme is getting a second shot as Belgian prime minister, just a year after he resigned over a financial scandal.

Yves Leterme and his government were sworn into office by King Albert of Belgium Wednesday afternoon, less than a week after his predecessor, Herman Van Rompuy, was tapped to be the European Union's first permanent president.

This is not the first time that Mr. Leterme, a Flemish Christian Democrat, has headed Belgium's government. He served as prime minister during a rocky nine months in 2008, before being forced out of office over allegations that his aids tried to influence a court ruling on a banking sale.

During his first tenure, Mr. Leterme was unable to overcome deep divisions between the nation's Flemish and French speaking communities. He was also criticized for making a number of gaffes, including not appearing to know the Belgian national anthem.

The question many are asking now is: will he do any better this time around?  Former prime minister Wilfried Martens says the answer is yes. Martens was tasked to organize the government transition after Mr. Van Rompuy's departure.

In an interview on Belgian television, Mr. Martens said the political atmosphere is positive, and far different than last December, when he was again called to intervene in the country's political crisis. Then, he said, there was deep distrust among Belgian political parties. Today, he says, they want to negotiate.

Both Mr. Martens and Mr. Van Rompuy have expressed confidence in Mr. Leterme's abilities. King Albert has also tasked another former prime minister, Jean-Luc Dehaene, with proposing solutions for the regional problems dividing the country -- including ways to redraw political boundaries around Brussels.

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