20 Dec 2008

Belgium in limbo again after govt collapses

12:48 pm on 20 December 2008

Belgium is without political leadership for the third time in a year after the government collapsed following a botched attempt to bail out the Fortis financial group.

Prime Minister Yves Leterme tendered the resignation of his government on Friday after the Supreme Court found signs of political meddling to sway a court ruling on the future of the bank. Fortis is a victim of the credit crunch.

Under the constitution King Albert II must now decide whether to accept the resignation. He held late-night talks with the prime minister, but deferred any immediate decision.

Mr Leterme has been in power for only nine months as leader of a five-party coalition.

Opposition parties demanded fresh parliamentary elections.

Mr Leterme previously tendered his resignation in July after failing to break a political deadlock among Dutch- and French-speaking groups, but the king refused to accept it.

He came to power in March after nine months of deadlock over the extent that powers should be devolved to Belgium's regions - a key demand for Dutch-speaking Flemish parties.