Belgian Crisis: Door Slams On Elections

Belgium’s struggling attempts to form a new government lost yet another possible way out today as the new chairman of the country’s Constitution Court slammed the door on any plans to call a new election to break the stalemate.

The political parties in Belgium have been struggling since Election Day on June 10 to form a government that will have a majority in Parliament. However, talks have ran aground over a number of issues concerning the future balance of power between the federal and the regional authorities, brought to focus over the question what to do with the constituency which both includes the mainly French-speaking Brussels and Flemish-speaking towns including Halle and Vilvoorde, which the Flemings have voted to split against the will of their French-speaking counterparts.

The designated Premier-to-be Yves Leterme is increasingly appearing to have failed his mission, and parallel talks hosted by king Albert II are reported tonight as being deadlocked. One of the few options left would therefore be to call a new election that would perhaps shift the Parliament in such a way that a majority would emerge that could form a government.

But that option was slammed shut this afternoon by Marc Bossuyt, the new chairman of the Constitution Court, the same court which ordered the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde constituency to be split three years ago on the grounds that it discriminated against the Flemish-speakers. The federal elections on June 10 were the last that could be held before the question of the “B-H-V” had to be resolved, Mr Bossuyt told VRT, and any elections after that without solving the issue would be unconstitutional.

“New legislation must be worked out that does away with this discrimination”, he told the VRT, though without suggesting any way to do so in practice.

This means that Belgium tonight is stuck dead over an issue which it would need a new election to resolve – but also that it can’t hold such an election unless it resolves that very issue first.

As this Catch 22 sinks in, it is time not only to count the days without a government, but also the days without any negotiations over the formation of a new government: official negotiations have now been shut down for six days. Meanwhile, the country appears to be heading steadily towards what would have been unthinkable a year ago: outright disintegration.

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