Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Apparent beheading of Steven Sotloff sees more calls for #IsisMediaBlackout

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Lesotho Coup: Exiled Prime Minister vows to return home after fleeing

Read more

DEBATE

Child Migrants In America: What to do about the wave of unaccompanied minors? (Part Two)

Read more

DEBATE

Child Migrants In America: What to do about the wave of unaccompanied minors?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Abbas Araghchi, Iranian deputy foreign minister

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

More of this year's best Observers stories

Read more

FOCUS

When water becomes a weapon of war

Read more

ENCORE!

Eve Ensler: 'In The Body Of The World'

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Ed Husain, Author of 'The Islamist'

Read more

  • IS video purports to show beheading of second US journalist

    Read more

  • Obama orders 350 more US troops to Baghdad

    Read more

  • Could France sell the Mona Lisa to pay off its debts?

    Read more

  • Video: Bodies ‘left behind’ as Ukraine forces flee rebel assault

    Read more

  • Trust and 'bio-disaster units' needed to fight Ebola

    Read more

  • France vows crackdown on unemployment benefit ‘abusers’

    Read more

  • Julie Gayet wins privacy case against French glossy Closer

    Read more

  • Germany blocks popular car pick-up service Uber

    Read more

  • Several UN peacekeepers killed in Mali explosion

    Read more

  • NATO plans new 'spearhead' force to counter Russia

    Read more

  • French clubs left behind as others spend big

    Read more

  • Britain drops arrest warrant for ill boy’s parents

    Read more

  • When water becomes a weapon of war

    Read more

  • Arab media strike back at IS Islamists – with cartoons

    Read more

  • US military targets Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group

    Read more

  • Eve Ensler: 'In The Body Of The World'

    Read more

  • Boko Haram Islamists seize northeast Nigerian town

    Read more

  • Is Carla Bruni against a political comeback for Sarkozy?

    Read more

King Albert accepts Leterme goverment's offer to resign

Video by Shona BHATTACHARYYA

Latest update : 2008-12-23

Belgium's King Albert II has accepted the resignations of Prime Minister Yves Leterme and his government. Leterme offered to resign on Friday following allegations that he sought to influence a court ruling linked to the breakup of Fortis bank.

AFP - The king of Belgium accepted Monday Prime Minister Yves Leterme's resignation but chose not to name his replacement, bringing new uncertainty to an 18-month political crisis.
   
After three days of talks with senior politicians, King Albert II tasked a former premier with sounding out political parties to see who might be the best candidate to end the power-sharing tussle, with Belgium mired in economic woe.
   
"The king has accepted the resignation of the government and ordered it to carry out day-to-day business," said a short statement from the royal palace.
   
It gave no indication of who might replace Leterme, who resigned Friday following allegations that his aides had sought to influence a court ruling linked to the break-up of Fortis, one of the kingdom's biggest banks.
   
Then, in a similar communique a few hours later, the palace said: "The king has received for an audience this evening at Laeken Chateau Mr Wilfried Martens."
   
"The king has charged him with an exploratory mission to try to find a rapid solution to the current political crisis. Mr Wilfried Martens has accepted this mission," it said.
   
Martens, 72, is like Leterme a Flemish Christian Democrat and served as prime minister almost without interruption from 1979 to 1992.
   
But the fact that he was named suggests the king is struggling to find someone with the political clout necessary to overcome Belgium's deep linguistic divisions, and that considerable time might yet be needed.
   
Another former premier, Martens' successor Jean-Luc Dehaene, has emerged a favourite, with his photograph on the front page of a number of newspapers Monday.
   
In a separate statement, Leterme thanked his team and said he had spared no effort in trying to overcome the power-sharing crisis that has dogged him since he won the elections in June 2007.
   
The 48-year-old Christian Democrat never managed to ease differences between Belgium's French-speaking community and Dutch-speakers in the north, who insist that any new cabinet should start handing over powers to the three regions that also include the Brussels area.
   
Leterme also said he hoped to be able to prove his innocence over the scandal that the Belgian media has dubbed "Fortisgate."
   
"I hope with all my heart to have, over the weeks to come, an honest and calm opportunity to refute in a transparent way all the accusations levelled against me and my collaborators," he said.
   
"I maintain, for my part, that at no time was there any question of trying to influence, or even more attempt to obstruct, the judicial process," he said, insisting that he had acted in "the public interest."
   
Fortis group was hastily dismantled in October as the global financial crisis bit, with the Dutch state taking over its Dutch banking and insurance assets and the Belgian government taking over its Belgian banking business.
   
In a bid to secure the long-term viability of Fortis and the Belgian banking system, the government also orchestrated the sale of most of the group's Belgian assets to BNP Paribas.
   
But in the case brought by Fortis's minority shareholders, a Brussels appeal court ruled on December 12 that they should have been consulted on the break-up.
   
A top Belgian judge said Friday that he had "strong indications," but no legal proof, that Leterme's aides tried to influence the court.
   
The name of Dehaene, also a Christian Democrat, was given a boost after Flemish Socialists said they would be willing to work in a "transition" cabinet until June 2009, when regional elections are due.
   
Dehaene, 68, who twice served as premier, has developed a reputation as a political "minesweeper," having chaperoned feuding French- and Dutch-speaking communities through power-sharing disputes in the past.
 

Date created : 2008-12-22

COMMENT(S)