The Belgian Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt has resigned after his Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) suffered a heavy election defeat in the general election on 10 June, along with their coalition partners, the Socialist Party (PS). Verhofstadt will serve as caretaker prime minister until the Prime Minister of Flanders and Prime Minister-elect, Yves Leterme, leader of the Flemish Christian Democrats (CD&V) forms a new governing coalition. Leterme's CD&V made big gains and became the largest party, obtaining 30 seats, ending their eight years in opposition.
The VLD won 15 seats, down from 24 in 2003, and the PS won 21, down from 25. The far-right Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interests) also won 17 seats. In Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, the Reformist Movement (MR) became the largest party and took second place nationally, with 22 seats. No single party bridges the linguistic and geographic gulf between Belgium's two regions and traditionally, the Prime Minister comes from one of the majority Flemish parties.
Leterme says he wants to increase the autonomy already enjoyed by Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern region where 60% of Belgians live, and French-speaking Wallonia in the south.
The CD&V is embarking on lengthy talks to form a new coalition, which could take at least a month. Leterme has called for constitutional changes to devolve power to the regions. He has previously caused controversy by saying that a united Belgium was an 'accident of history' and that the country has no 'intrinsic value'.
11 June 2007