6 Dec 2011

New govt appointed in Belgium

11:52 am on 6 December 2011

King Albert II of Belgium has appointed a new cabinet, ending 540 days of political deadlock.

A new government will be sworn in on Tuesday. It will be headed by French-speaking Socialist Elio Di Rupo.

Belgium has been run by a caretaker administration since the last government resigned in April 2010 after failing to resolve linguistic disputes.

But last week, six parties agreed to a new administration headed by Mr Di Rupo.

The BBC reports Mr Di Rupo, 60, will be the first French-speaking prime minister in three decades and the first Socialist to take the premiership in Belgium since 1974.

In a statement, the palace said that Steven Vanackere would become finance minister and Didier Reynders foreign minister, switching jobs from their previous roles in the caretaker government.

Politicians have been under pressure from financial markets and ratings agencies to create an effective government capable of carrying out structural reforms and reducing debt.

Last month, Standard & Poor's downgraded Belgium's credit rating to AA from AA+.


Mr Di Rupo was born on 18 July 1951 in the town of Morlanwelz, in the French-speaking Wallonia region, to parents who had emigrated from a village in Abruzzo, San Valentino, in search of work.

At the age of one, he lost his father in a car crash. Struggling to raise seven children, his illiterate mother gave some of them up to a nearby orphanage.

The BBC reports he become active in the Socialist Party as a student in Mons, where he rose to become an MP and mayor.

In 1996, he was falsely accused of having had sex with under-age males, but was totally vindicated in the affair.

The BBC reports his career did not appear to suffer. Three years later, Mr Di Rupo was leader of the Socialist Party and, shortly afterwards, became regional prime minister of Wallonia.