by Morgane Dale
Belgium has one of the most complicated administrative and political systems in the world so I’ll keep it to the big issue. The country is divided into three regions : flemish-speaking, french-speaking and Brussels in the middle. There is also a small official german-speaking community. Basically, Belgium’s politics are split by language. Every time elections are held, people from each region vote for their own politicians, who end up having to form a government all together whilst respecting quotas of representation based on the vote results the political parties got in their region.
Are you still with me? Essentially we’ve got the main dutch-speaking party against the main french-speaking party. It could be a great introduction for Roman style arena gladiator fighting:”The people have voted, now fight!”
Mid-January 2011 saw 40,000 people marching down the streets of Brussels, the Belgian capital. But why? Why?. We’ll need to do a little time-warp to explain…
Elections were held in June 2007. Belgium then went through a political crisis (because as said before, forming a government is a fight!) and the definite government was instituted almost a year later in March 2008. The prime minister of the time offered his resignation a first time in July 2008, and a second time in December when it was accepted. So, it was time for a new Prime minister! It’s pretty much got to the point where most people in Belgium hardly know who the prime minister actually is…
This one lasted for a year until December 2009. And when the prime minister abandoned the ship, who did we bring back? The one before! Who… once again… gave up in april 2010…..
And then there were new elections…
Which brings us to June 2010. Everybody – back in the voting booth!
So… this time the french speaking Socialist party formed a government with the separatist flemish speaking NVA (liberal party). Oh, and there are also two more french-speaking and two more flemish speaking parties involved in the negotiations, because even though they were not at the top of list enough people still voted for them to get into the government. So, it’s mainly right wing dutch speakers who want to split the country VS left wing french speakers (who want to try to keep the country together). Sounds fun, right?
So much fun that Belgium has already broken the European record of longest time without government and is now creeping in fast on the world record held by Iraq (289 days…)!
That is why what started as a Facebook event launched by 5 youngsters became a 40.000 people national march down through the country’s capital. They chose the name « SHAME » for the event. The streets were filled with normal citizens, elderly people, teenagers, students, unions and political parties that are not part of the government Because we are tired of watching politicians fight like children. We are tired of watching the main flemish-speaking party (NVA) try to convince us that the country should split. Especially when they try to make us believe that we cannot all live together because we do not speak the same language.
Belgian politicians should be ashamed of themselves. The country is running to bankruptcy and discrediting the democratic process.
What should be a fight for the people’s rights has become a fight for each party’s personal interests.
Luckily, we have hope. Hope that politicians will listen to the raised voices of the streets. Hope that we will not split a country over language. Hope that we can still believe in democracy.
I hope that this makes things a bit clearer. You might want to check out these websites: