Mon, Jan 05, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Belgian parliament gives new leader vote of confidence

AFP , BRUSSELS

The Belgian parliament gave the government of new Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy a vote of confidence on Friday, as expected, after his predecessor was forced out amid a bailout scandal.

The lower house deputies approved the five-party coalition and Van Rompuy’s nomination by King Albert II by 88 votes to 45 after a lengthy debate, reflecting the balance of power between the government and the opposition.

Van Rompuy, who received much applause from the assembled deputies, has vowed to carry on the main planks of the government of his Flemish Christian-Democrat party colleague Yves Leterme, which had the same five-party mix of Flemish Christian Democrats and Liberals; and French-speaking Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists.

Leterme quit along with his government on Dec. 19 amid allegations that his aides had sought to influence a court ruling related to the break-up of Fortis bank.

A top Belgian judge said he had “strong indications,” but no legal proof, that Leterme’s aides tried to influence the court.

How long the government can last with the same coalition make-up and policies remains a matter of doubt, given the enduring intercommunal tensions between the richer Dutch-speaking community in Flanders and their poorer francophone neighbors in southern Wallonia.

Van Rompuy jumped straight into the fray, telling parliament during his first speech as prime minister on Wednesday that he would accelerate the negotiations on the future of the country and the thorny issue of devolving more powers to the regions. He asked the parliament to judge his government on its actions not its promises, but also asked for time.

“Don’t judge the government … by its intentions but by its results, but no results in the very short-term. Judge us in 2011,” when the next legislative elections are due, he told the lawmakers.

The Flemish opposition on Friday questioned the legitimacy of the new government.

Jan Jambon, of the Flemish nationalist NVA party, denounced “a government which does not represent a majority of the Flemish people.”

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