Thursday, April 22, 2010

Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme has offered to resign amid a political dispute, the press office of the Belgian parliament reported on Thursday.

The Belgian king, King Albert II, has not yet accepted the prime minister’s offer. He and Leterme met on Thursday’s afternoon, the office said. The king said that the resulting political turbulence from the resignation “seriously threatens” the country’s standing in the European Union.

“[He] had no other choice than to inform us that he would go to the king immediately to tender the government’s resignation,” said Belgium’s health minister, Laurette Onkelinx.

The Belgian palace commented on the issue in a written statement. “The king and the prime minister jointly underlined that […] a political crisis would be inopportune and would seriously damage both the economic and social well-being of the citizens and the role of Belgium in Europe.”

Leterme also resigned as prime minister in late 2008 over a banking scandal. He returned to office last November when former PM Herman van Rompuy gave up the post to become the first, full-time head of the European Union.

This latest resignation is a fallout of Belgium’s long-term power struggle between the country’s French-speaking Walloons and Flemish-speaking majority.

The latest disagreement centers on special rights for Walloons living near Brussels; specifically, the location of electoral boundaries around the capital. A key coalition member, the Flemish liberal Open VLD Party, pulled out of the government, frustrated over the failure to resolve the dispute. Party chairman Alexander De Croo said that”[w]e have not agreed on a negotiated solution and therefore Open VLD no longer has confidence in the government.”

Without the VLD, the other four government parties have 76 of 150 lower house seats in the parliament, although governing with such a small majority would be hard, Al Jazeera says.

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