Belgium breaks 16-month deadlock as new government forms

By Marine Strauss and Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgium is finally getting a new government on Wednesday, 16 months on from a parliamentary election, with the Belgian king expected to name caretaker finance minister Alexander De Croo as the new prime minister.

Following weeks of talks, seven parties spanning the French-Dutch language divide have agreed to form a governing coalition to replace the caretaker administration of Sophie Wilmes, who led Belgium through six months of the COVID-19 crisis.

Belgium has one of the world’s highest COVID-19 fatalities per capita. The death toll passed 10,000 on Wednesday.

De Croo was set to lead the new government, Belgian newspapers including daily Le Soir reported, citing anonymous sources.

Paul Magnette, leader of the French-speaking Socialists, said on Twitter that he was heading to the palace to form a government with other parties.

Belgium had been under a caretaker administration since the start of the COVID-19 crisis in March and without a fully fledged government since December 2018, when a four-party coalition collapsed.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine, Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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