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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-01-26

The mediator in Belgium's political crisis, Johan Vande Lanotte (pictured), quit Wednesday after failing to break the deadlock between the country's Dutch and French-speaking leaders. The country has been without a government since June.

AFP - King Albert II's mediator in the country's months-long political crisis threw in the towel Wednesday after failing to break a deadlock between Dutch and French-speaking leaders, a palace statement said.

"The royal conciliator asked the king to be discharged from his mission. The king accepted and will start consultations tomorrow," the palace said.
Johan Vande Lanotte tendered his resignation a first time three weeks ago in frustration at a lack of progress after three months of mediation efforts, but was asked by the king to carry on.
Though a figurehead sovereign, Albert II has named a succession of go-betweens since June elections failed to produce an outright winner -- but none have made headway in efforts to hammer out a coalition deal acceptable to leaders both from the Dutch-speaking north and French south.
Belgium has been rudderless since June 13, with the country now holding Europe's record as the nation longest without government.
Though a caretaker government is in charge of daily business, as the impasse continues fears are mounting of a break-up of the country of 11 million that plays host to key global institutions, NATO and the EU.
Ratings agencies have warned of a downgrade failing a stable government in the near future, raising the prospect of Belgium being dragged into the rumbling eurozone crisis.
Vande Lanotte had tried since late October to find a platform enabling leaders from the two sides of the language divide to come together to form a coalition government.
The king's refusal to accept the mediator's resignation on January 6 had raised hopes of a new incentive to bridge the gulf.
Last weekend, Belgium's feuding Flemish and French-speaking leaders came under mounting pressure from the street to form a government when more than 34,000 angry citizens marched across Brussels in a protest organised on Facebook.
"What do we want? We want a government," said the marchers, shouting "Shame!" at the politicians.
The squabble between the seven parties involved in the seven-month-long talks is over a deal to transfer federal powers to the different language communities.
Flemish separatists emerged the leading party in the June election, with the Dutch-speakers -- who represent 60 percent across Belgium -- demanding more autonomy for their region, notably in fiscal and social policy.
But the French-speaking south fears a loss of subsidies for their once wealthy region as well as the start of a break-up of the country.


Date created : 2011-01-26

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