This record is neither the record for most hamburgers eaten or the loudest sneeze. This particular record is more absurd than any other. Belgium has broken the record for “the longest time passed without a government”. On the 18th of February 2011, Belgium become the new record holder for the longest time passed without a government. The former record holder was Iraq with 248 days.
It is probably not correct to think that the Iraqis were upset at losing the record. For most Iraqis would not have wanted to be known in the world for being so uncompromising, anti-democratic and inadequate in political culture. For a government to be formed following the elections in March 2010, it had taken Iraq 248 days. The Iraqis undoubtedly had many reasons for the long record of 248 days.
The Iraqi Record of 248 Days To begin with, Iraq was a country very tired from one war after another. Iraq had never been under democratic rule at any time in its history. The Iraqis were inexperienced in pluralist parliamentary democracy. Iraq which had been destroyed in wars, suffered great loss of life and had become severely impoverished. A considerable proportion of the population was dead. Much of the remaining population had fled its homes or the country.
Those remaining were in different parts of the country where everything was not as it should have been. Many parts of the country were under the influence of resistance fighters, terrorists, warlords, sects, tribes, small groups which preferred to be isolated from the world, religious orders and groupings and foreign intelligence agencies. Given that the security of the elections, voters and poll boxes was not complete, it is almost good news that a government could be formed in 248 days. Given the circumstances, it is easy to understand why Iraq, rich in underground resources, but poor and uneducated, went without a government for 248 days.
So if your country has been under a dictatorship throughout history, if it has fought Iran once for years and the USA twice, if it was under the heaviest embargo for at least a decade, if the population is poor, uneducated and hungry, it takes 248 days to found a government; sad but true. How was the Record Broken? The following events took place in educated, cultured, stable, EU and NATO member, wealthy and democratic Belgium: On the 13th of June early general elections were held in Belgium. The New Flemish Alliance under the leadership of Bart De Wever emerged as the victor. The New Flemish Alliance got 28 per cent of the vote of the Flemish region, which constitutes the relatively wealthy 60 per cent of the country’s population.
The reason why the New Flemish Alliance got such a high vote was its demand for independence. The New Flemish Alliance came 10 percentage points ahead of its closest rival the Christian Democrats. On the other hand, in the Walloon region, where 40 per cent of the country’s population live, the Socialist Party got 38 per cent of the vote, placing them 15 percentage points ahead of their closest rival, the Liberals. King Albert the Second gave the duty of forming a government to Elio Di Rupo, leader of the Walloon Socialists. However, in coalition talks the parties could not come to an agreement over the issues regarding more autonomy for regional governments and the distribution of certain electoral districts around Brussels. The talks came to an end in September.
King Albert the Second then tried to force Flemish and Walloon parties into reconciliation through the mediation of parliament and senate speakers. No progress was made. Then the king gave the duty of forming a government De Wever, the leader of the New Flemish Alliance. De Wever drew up a plan. According to that plan Flemish, Walloon and Brussels regions would receive 45 per cent of tax income and local powers would be increased. De Wever’s plan was refused. For although the Flemish want to separate, the Walloons are against separation. They saw De Wever’s plan as laying the grounds for the disintegration of Belgium. In his next attempt, King Albert the Second tried his luck with the former leader of the Flemish Socialists Johan Vande Lanotte.
Johan Vande Lanotte made two attempts, yet could not even manage to get the parties to gather for a joint meeting. The most unfortunate European monarch King Albert the Second called up Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Didier Reynders as a last resort. Why was the Record Broken? There are certain special reasons behind the scenes of this new record. For example, per capita income in the Flemish region is EUR 32,000. In the Walloon region, however, the same figure is only EUR 23,000. So the Flemish are wealthier than the Walloons. This is the reason why the Flemish do not want the Walloons. The Flemish do not want resources to be transferred from their own region to the Walloon region. Of course the Walloons have no objections to the present situation. The Walloons want the status quo in Belgium to continue and the Flemish not to leave.
Every other point of dispute between the Flemish and the Walloons is simply ammunition for the “money issue”. It is the case with language and the authorities of local governments. The third and smallest group in the country, the 70,000 people of German origin are also for separation. Indeed, the German demands go further than the Flemish, for they would like the country to be split into four. According to the German minority, the Flemish, Walloon, German and Brussels regions should all be fully autonomous. Belgium the New Record Holder We do not know whether there were celebrations in Iraq when their record was broken by Belgium. But the Belgians protested the record by celebrating. Some Belgians did not want to become the new holders of this record. They tried various means of protest to this end. There was the protest “not to shave until a government was formed”.
There was also a call to withhold sex until a government was formed. However, when the protestors saw how slim the chances of forming a government was, they quit their activities. Participation in an online campaign calling for political parties, who had not been able to form a government, to be exempted from treasury aid reached 150,000. The situation did not change. There is of course another significant detail. Belgium continues to break its own record with every passing day. Just like Isin Bayeva in pole jumping and Johan Reemn Evensen in ski jumping. Belgium has shown that record breaking is no coincidence. Perhaps there will next be demands for Belgian politicians to be screened for performance altering substances.