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An increasingly popular Guy Verhofstadt has been given the task to form an interim government
(picture VRT)
An increasingly popular Guy Verhofstadt has been given the task to form an interim government

Verhofstadt forms interim government

Mon 17/12/07 - Belgian caretaker Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (Flemish liberal) accepted a request from King Albert on Monday to form an interim government. Negotiations on a new federal government have dragged on since the Belgians went to the polls back on June 10th.

The beginning of December, the main winner of the June 10 elections, would-be Prime Minister Yves Leterme (Flemish Christian democrat) reported to the King, having to admit that he was unable (for the second time) to form a government coalition.

King Albert (photo) subsequently asked the out-going PM, Guy Verhofstadt, to try to find a way out of the political impasse.

According to a statement from the royal palace, the King has now officially charged Verhofstadt with forming an interim government.

The goal of the interim government will be to take care of urgent matters and start negotiations leading to institutional reform.

Guy Verhofstadt will be PM of the interim government until March 23 at the latest.  After that it is expected that Yves Leterme will head a definitive government.

Verhofstadt is growing in popularity

"Verhofstadt superstar"

Verhofstadt, whose Flemish Liberal party was among the main losers in the June election, has increased in popularity as the crisis has dragged on and is now considered one of the main unifying political figures in the country.

According to an opinion poll in daily La Libre Belgique on Monday, the rating of the outgoing prime minister -- which it dubbed "Verhofstadt superstar" -- has surged in the past two months.

Verhofstadt is in top spot in bilingual Brussels, as well as French-speaking Wallonia, and Dutch-speaking Flanders.

The same poll also found a vast majority of Belgians, including 72 percent in the more separatist and affluent Flanders, wanted the country to stay together. (Reuters)

Mr. Verhofstadt has spoken with the main Flemish and Francophone parties and has launched the idea of an asymmetrical government: liberal/socialist in Wallonia and liberal/Christian democrat in Flanders.