Belgium. In a satirical ad on the e-commerce site eBay in
September, the whole of Belgium was offered for sale, as "a
kingdom, in three parts". Any buyers were advised to buy one
of the parts Flanders, Wallonia or Brussels. The background
to the ad, which was soon removed from the site, was the
political crisis in which Belgium was in. The country was
without government since the parliamentary elections just
over three months earlier, and there was talk of the risk of
the nation falling apart.
The June 10 election to both parliament's chambers was a
major setback for the largest government party, the liberal
VLD, and for the government coalition in general. Guy
Verhofstadt filed his resignation after eight years as prime
CountryAAH, the largest party and the winner of the election became
the Flemish Christian Democratic Party CD&V, whose leader
Yves Leterme was commissioned to put together a new
coalition. The task was difficult in the politically complex
landscape where most parties are in two sets: one in
Flanders and one in French-speaking Wallonia.
Leterme tried to form a government with Christian
democratic and liberal parties. But in August, after two
months, he was forced to announce that negotiations had
broken down. The major battle issue was increased autonomy
for the regions, which the Flemish CD&V and VLD advocated,
but which their Walloon sister parties rejected.
Many Flemish people wanted increased self-government and
reduced the transfer of resources from Flanders to Wallonia,
the poorer of the two countrymen.
King Albert now had to step in to try to help find a
solution. It was the first time the monarch participated in
the formation of government in almost 20 years. The royal
house is generally regarded as a unifying factor in the
The attempts to form a government continued during the
fall, without success. In November, a long time had passed
since the election without a new government; 30,000 people
demonstrated in Brussels for a united Belgium and to
persuade politicians to form government.
In early December, Leterme gave up for the second time
the attempts to form a government. Instead, the outgoing
Prime Minister Verhofstadt was invited to form a
transitional government to temporarily resolve the crisis.
Just before Christmas, a five-party coalition with a
three-month mandate was approved.
During the year, the Belgians marked the 100th
anniversary of Georges Remi's birth with exhibitions, stamps
and plans for a new museum. Remi created under the pseudonym
Hergé one of the world's most famous Belgians: the cartoon