Divided Belgium to swear in new king

By REUTERS
July 21, 2013 03:54
1 minute read.

BRUSSELS - Belgium will swear in a new king on Sunday with festivities but also questions over the political influence of the monarch and the acceptance of Philippe as the king of all Belgians.

The 183-year-old country is split across the middle, with many Dutch speakers seeking greater independence for Flanders in the north and wary of a monarchy seen rooted in the once powerful, but now poorer French-speaking Wallonia in the south.

"One king, two nations" was a headline in French language business daily L'Echo, while Dutch newspaper De Standaard pushed the royals deep inside its weekend issue, leading instead with a story on tax.

Fewer than half of people in Flanders believe Philippe will be a good king after 79-year-old King Albert II steps aside, against two-thirds in Wallonia, according to a poll.

Business leaders are similarly divided, with French speakers content with the status quo, but Dutch-speaking counterparts saying the monarch no longer have a political role.

Belgian kings - and 53-year-old Philippe will be the seventh - do plenty of handshaking and ribbon-cutting, but also appoint mediators and potential government heads to steer coalition talks after elections, no small task in Belgium.


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