Belgium

Belgians unite in march against government impasse

Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Thousands of Belgians hit the streets of Brussels Sunday to demand a government, after a seven-month impasse between Dutch and French-speaking politicians that has left the country with a political vacuum. The march of "Shame” was organised on the internet by a group of students.

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Some 20,000 people of all ages walked peacefully through Belgium's capital from noon onwards in what has been described as a march for unity – with reports of a number of Belgian flags.

They were answering a Facebook call by students from both sides of the country's language divide in the first demonstration of its kind since last June’s elections.

Interview: Tim Ost, demonstrator

Although they resulted in a win for the Dutch-speaking Flemish separatist NV-A party, without a majority it was forced to try to form a coalition government with five other parties.

These include the French-speaking Socialists, who won the majority in French-speaking Wallonia. But more than seven months later, Belguim is still without a government.

Tim Ost, a 34-year-old designer taking part in the march, told RFI he is fed up with the way politicians have been divisive.

"To do politics is to find the middle way, and what they keep doing is arguing… I just want them to work it out because the stagnation is a problem for our country,” he said.

“In the meantime the socio-economic problems don't get solved. We are all losing - all Belgians are losing.”

Ost described the differences between language groups, in Flanders and Wallonia, as mainly ideological.

“It's not a real problem,” Ost said. “There are no Flemish people who can't go into Wallonia, for example. There isn't really trouble between the people - it's more between the politicians.”

Politicians have been squabbling over plans to give its different communities more autonomy.

The Dutch speakers - who represent 60 percent of Belgium's 11 million citizens - want more autonomy for their region, notably in fiscal and social policy.

The French speakers, however, want to limit decentralisation, fearing both a loss of subsidies for their region and the start of a true break-up of the country.

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