Belgian King designates new prime minister

King Albert on Sunday asked Herman Van Rompuy, a Dutch-speaking Christian Democrat, to take the reins of the Belgian government that quit December 19 after a scandal over the botched bailout of the Fortis bank. Van Rompuy, 61, is expected to replace Leterme at the head of a quarrelsome alliance of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists in a matter of days. He is currently parliament president. The king named him prime minister-designate at the suggestion of ex-premier Wilfried Martens, who spent six days sounding out political leaders on how to quickly form a new government.