BBC World Service

Belgium ends 540 days without leader

Matt Cole Dec 5, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: Well the country with the fifth highest debt load in Europe has been without a full-time government for 540 days. I’m talking about Belgium, which may finally get some leadership today with the appointment of a new prime minister.

The BBC’s Matt Cole has the story from Brussels.

Matt Cole: It’s been as much a source of amusement as anger here in Belgium that the country has gone so long without a government. There have been serious demonstrations calling on politicians to get their act together — but also more light-hearted protests. One group have refused to shave their beards until an administration is formed. A female lawmaker suggested the partners of her male colleagues withhold conjugal rights until an agreement was reached.

However, the critical stage of the European debt crisis may have forced a breakthrough. The six parties involved in talks have come to an agreement in principle to name Elio Di Rupo the country’s new prime minister.

Here’s Mr.Rupo trying to reassure markets last week that Belgium was still able to pass an austerity budget without a government.

Elio Di Rupo: We are proving that Belgium is capable of taking extremely difficult measures and that we are ready to face any kind of situation.

So right now Belgium’s got a budget but no government.

In Belgium, I’m the BBC’s Matt Cole, for Marketplace.

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