Belgium's King urges rival parties to form new gov't

PM government collapsed last Friday after the Supreme Court said there were clear indications of political meddling in a court ruling.

Belgium's King urges rival parties to form new gov't

Belgium's King Albert urged rival parties to form a new government as soon as possible to end the country's third political crisis in a year and respond to the worst financial downturn since the 1930s.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme's government collapsed last Friday after the Supreme Court said there were clear indications of political meddling in a court ruling over the bailout of stricken bank Fortis.

The ruling five parties failed to agree who should succeed Leterme and how long a new government should last, prompting the king to appoint former premier Wilfried Martens as a mediator late on Monday.

"I truly hope that a sense of responsibility will drive everyone quickly to form a new government that can efficiently tackle the economic, social and financial challenges facing our country and can push forward the necessary reform of our state," the king said in a Christmas address broadcast on Wednesday.

"Our country has been shaken by a new political crisis whose origins lie in the international financial crisis and its echoes in Belgium in the legal system."

"Belgium has, like the rest of the world, been hit by the worst financial crisis since the 1930s," the king said.

Belgium is expected to have slipped into recession in the fourth quarter and needs a government to enact an economic rescue package and wage deal as well as resolving the Fortis debacle.

Fortis investors, angry at seeing their shares tumble below 1 euro, won an appeal court ruling earlier this month freezing the group's break-up by the Dutch, Luxembourg and Belgian governments and the latter's sale of Fortis assets to BNP Paribas.

They argue the deals should be renegotiated.

The king also referred to the "other crisis" Belgium faced this year, the dispute between Dutch-speaking parties wanting more powers devolved to Flanders and French-speakers who fear this would lead Belgium towards break-up.

King Albert said he was very happy that dialogue had begun.

"I sincerely hope that, despite the difficulties, the work will continue in a constructive spirit and with essential discretion. It is a vital issue for our country and for the well-being of everyone."

Martens held a second day of talks on Wednesday with no obvious signs of a breakthrough. He described his task on Tuesday as difficult, but not hopeless.

Reuters
Last Mod: 24 Aralık 2008, 16:03
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