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After 541 days, Belgium to get govt

[ 2011-12-07 16:05]     字号 [] [] []  
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Belgium's soon-to-be prime minister set up a slimmed-down coalition on Monday, in one of the final steps before his team formally ends the record 541 days the country has gone without a government.

The swearing-in on Tuesday was a long-awaited relief to the entire nation of 6.5 million Dutch speakers and 4.5 million French speakers who long ago grew frustrated with the deadlock between politicians over linguistic differences.

One radio presenter finally shaved off the beard he has grown for almost a year to protest the drawn-out coalition negotiations, an unofficial world record.

"I won't do it again, never again," Koen Fillet said after he was soaped, shaved and splashed with aftershave in a show webcast live.

Elio Di Rupo will be the first French-speaking prime minister in almost 40 years. Outgoing Vice-Prime Minister Laurette Onkelinx said the grand coalition of Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals, each split in Dutch- and French-speaking parties, will include only 13 full ministers.

The government has a lot of catching up to do, especially when it comes to the economy.

The EU welcomed the breakthrough and said EU officials would soon review the budget text to see if it meets the recommendations of fiscal rigor and increased competitiveness.

Di Rupo said that next year's budget will have a deficit of 2.8 percent of GDP to remain with in the EU target. He called the $14.95 billion in austerity measures a step toward assuring a balanced budget in 2015 and the toughest measures taken by the nation in some 70 years.

"The new government is handicapped," said Bart Maddens, a political science professor at the University of Leuven. "They will have an uphill battle to gain popularity in (Dutch-speaking) Flanders. The (Flemish nationalist) N-VA party is extremely popular in Flanders, and not including them in the coalition creates the risk that Flemish support for the government will melt away."

Another problem the new government faces is time. With negotiations having taken almost ayear and a half, Di Rupo will have a much shorter term, with the next elections scheduled for 2014.

Despite the challenges facing Di Rupo, citizens are happy that the political deadlock has finally been broken and that the country can now focus on dealing with the issues at hand.


1. What did one radio presenter do to protest the drawn-out coalition negotiations?

2. What will the GDP deficit be of next year's budget?

3. Who is the new prime minister?


1. Grew out his beard for almost a year.

2. 2.8 percent.

3. Elio Di Rupo.

(中国日报网英语点津 Rosy 编辑)

After 541 days, Belgium to get govt

About the broadcaster:

After 541 days, Belgium to get govt

Emily Cheng is an editor at China Daily. She was born in Sydney, Australia and graduated from the University of Sydney with a degree in Media, English Literature and Politics. She has worked in the media industry since starting university and this is the third time she has settled abroad - she interned with a magazine in Hong Kong 2007 and studied at the University of Leeds in 2009.