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Belgium's record-breaking identity crisis

10 21 30
09.09.2020

Back in 2011, Belgium made it into the Guinness World Records for the dubious achievement of going through the longest peacetime period without a government. Clocking in at 589 days, this was more than 200 days ahead of its nearest contenders, Cambodia (354 days) and Iraq (289 days).

This record appeared unbeatable ... until now.

Last month, Belgium broke its own record. The country is still being run by a caretaker government because its squabbling parties have not managed to agree on a governing coalition. This is despite marathon negotiating sessions and a continuous stream of brave knightly politicians tasked by King Philippe to slay the dragon of political polarisation but who get their fingers burned instead.

Coalition negotiations have moved beyond the more common colour-coding conventions (purple-green, rainbow, etc.) to be dubbed the "Vivaldi coalition" in a nod to the Italian composer's violin concerti Four Seasons.

Like Antonio Vivaldi, Flemish liberal Egbert Lachaert (who is the 12th politician to lead the consultations to form a coalition since the elections way back in May 2019), has had the unenviable task of composing an agreement that, while not music to the ears of any party, can at least get socialists, liberals, greens and Christian democrats on both sides of the country's widening language divide singing from the same hymn sheet.

Now it appears that Lachaert may have hit the right notes and a full agreement, including the thorny question of who is to become prime minister, is expected to be sealed by the end of this week.

Paradoxically, rather than throw Belgium's embattled political system into total disarray or even collapse, the coronavirus crisis has provided them with more urgent and important matters to deal with.

However, this temporary reprieve from politics as usual will end in mid-September when caretaker premier Sophie Wilmes's emergency mandate comes to an end. The acting prime minister has indicated that she is unlikely to seek a renewed........

© Al Jazeera


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