May 22, 2013
Belgium secures government after record deadlock
Belgium finally secured a government on Monday after record-long talks to form a coalition that promises the most profound state reform in decades and a commitment to restore the country's finances.
Financial markets have rewarded debt-heavy Belgium by reducing its cost of borrowing sharply since a budget deal sealed a week ago. The government has a mammoth 180-page agreement to put into action, having already lost a year and a half of its four-year term.
The new government must satisfy demands of the Dutch-speaking Flemish majority for devolution of further powers to Belgium's regions, and may be forced to redraw a budget that economists say is based on too optimistic a growth forecast.
That will be no easy matter. Budget talks themselves dragged on for six weeks and only concluded at the end of an 18-hour session after Standard & Poor's had cut Belgium's credit rating to AA from AA+.
The new government retained many of the ministers from the caretaker government of acting prime minister Yves Leterme, albeit in different roles.
Flemish Christian Democrat Steven Vanackere becomes finance minister and francophone Liberal Didier Reynders foreign ministers, a straight job switch.
Di Rupo will be the first native French-speaking prime minister of Belgium since 1979 and the first from the region of Wallonia since 1974, as well as the first son of immigrants and the first openly gay person to be premier of the country.
The more right-leaning Flemish electorate has already expressed concerns about being led by a French-speaking Socialist -- and what is more one whose command of Dutch is limited.