Friday, May 09, 2008

Why can't we all just get along

A simmering Belgian political crisis boiled over today after Flemish lawmakers voted on the deeply-contentious issue of French-speakers' voting rights in Brussels suburbs, threatening the fragile coalition government.
Members of parliament managed to schedule in a vote on the issue as sought by Flemish lawmakers, which minority French-speaking legislators see as a direct affront.
But to block any vote for 120 days French-speakers could launch a conflict of interest procedure as early as Friday.
Eager to avoid a crisis, Prime Minister Yves Leterme had in recent days been racing against the clock to negotiate a compromise on the issue, which is threatening his government barely two months after taking office.
The row was one of many dividing politicians of the rival language communities as Leterme struggled for nine months to set up a coalition government following his election victory last June.
Flemish parties, want to do away with a special arrangement whereby French-speakers in Flemish suburbs of Brussels vote in the capital, where French-speakers are a majority.
Flanders seeks greater regional powers to reflect its prosperous status. It also resents subsidising the less affluent French-speaking Wallonia region.

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