Six 'yeses' to Belgium's new coalition

On Sunday the rank and file of a further three Belgian political parties gave their backing to participation in the new government. Delegates at conferences organised by the Flemish Christian democrats and liberals and the Francophone socialists voted in favour of taking part in the new administration.

Earlier representatives of the Flemish socialists and the Francophone liberals and Christian democrats had done the same.

The votes open the way for party leaders to meet with Prime Minister-in-waiting Elio Di Rupo (Francophone socialist) to do the carve up of ministerial posts. This will happen on Sunday night. The leader of each party taking part in the government will decide who represents his party in the new government.

The party leaders still have to decide how many ministerial posts the new government will have and whether there will be junior ministers too (confusingly called 'Secretaries of State' in Belgium). The number of ministers is the subject of debate. Usually there are an equal number of Flemings and Francophones with the Premier being 'language neutral' and bilingual. If this were to be the case this time too Francophones would be in the majority in the cabinet whereas in Belgium as a whole they only make up 40% of the population. In addition there is some unease about Mr Di Rupo's ability to speak Dutch. The idea of appointing a German-speaker as one of the new ministers is not being entirely ruled out.

It is understood that Mr Di Rupo hopes that his new team will be able to take the oath of office on Monday, but the ceremony may have to be delayed until Tuesday. The ceremony will be carried live on when it happens and you will also be able to watch the debate in parliament on the new government's policy statement.

A further three 'yeses'

Only one delegate at the Francophone socialist party conference voted against the new government.

Still, many of the PS rank and file feel that the government agreement is not progressive enough and should have contained more socialist policies, but the general feeling seemed to be that the party had to accept the accord "in order to save the country".

Two Flemish Christian democrat delegates voted against the deal. Party leader Wouter Beke told his conference that with a sixth state reform programme matters were being put to rights in the country. Important powers worth 16 billion euros were being transferred to Flanders. He stressed that the Brussels Halle Vilvoorde Constituency was being split and that a new funding law would give Flanders greater fiscal autonomy. Mr Beke also underlined that it was a socially just accord that met the challenges of tomorrow.

Also at the Flemish liberals near-unanimous backing for the new coalition. Two delegates voted against. Flemish liberal leader Alexander De Croo clashed with Mr Di Rupo during the final stages of the talks but he insisted that the liberals could now defend the government accord: "It is thanks to the liberals that we have taken the road that will lead us out of the crisis."