Now Miss Belgium urges rival politicians to broker new deal

One year after elections were supposed to offer a way out of endless linguistic bickering, Belgium is still looking for a government and the infighting between Dutch-speaking and Francophone parties is worsening.

Beauty queen Justine de Jonckheere has entered the national debate around Belgium's divided political class Picture: Getty Images

Today marks a full year since elections brought the anti-Belgium N-VA regionalists to the fore in Dutch-speaking Flanders and left the pro-Belgium PS Socialists as main party in the Francophone regions.

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The two need to work together to form a unitary national government, but have been spectacularly unsuccessful during a year of bitter sniping, interspersed with periods of cold silence.

In the meantime, the caretaker government is hamstrung by an inability to take decisive action while international investors take an increasingly dim view of things.

N-VA leader Bart De Wever compared it to a marathon. "I don't know at what kilometre we are right now. I only know that this summer we need to have a breakthrough," he told the weekend edition of De Standaard.

Even Miss Belgium got involved yesterday.

"Belgium is beautiful! We have so much, the sea in Flanders, the forest in Wallonia,' said 19-year-old beauty queen Justine de Jonckheere. "But I must admit the country has problems.

"Ministers hold endless meetings to reach an understanding, but never do," she told Le Soir. "They need to put a little water in their wine!"

So far, the six million Fleming and five million Francophones have remained largely indifferent, apart from a few protest marches and fun actions as the country first broke the European record of coalition talks in January and followed it up by beating the record set by Iraq.

Everything remained eerily quiet in the lead-up to today's one-year election mark too.

Two popularity polls indicated that the N-VA and PS would both continue to surge in their regions at around one third of the electorate, none of the two punished by their inability to produce a government.

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PS leader Elio Di Rupo is currently tasked by the king to form a government and had talks with De Wever over the weekend. All sides say though, no breakthrough is imminent.

"It is for him to show initiative and, so far, we hear little," said De Wever.

Over the past weeks, political infighting has centred on anything from Flemish collaboration during the Second World War to allegations of Francophone cultural imperialism seeking to impose the French language in Flanders.

The Flemings from the north and the Francophones have found it increasingly difficult to broker compromises between the two sides in recent years, as running the country has become ever more complicated.

Richer Flanders has increasingly demanded more autonomy from Wallonia to run its own affairs and the N-VA has long said Belgium will eventually "evaporate."

Walloon politicians, though, want to hang on to as many national institutions as possible for their financial survival.

However, an opinion poll taken late last week showed two-thirds of Belgians continue to believe the country can survive its fiercest crisis to date - though the proportion was highest in French-speaking Wallonia, at 79 per cent, followed by 74 per cent in bilingual Brussels and 62 per cent in Dutch-speaking Flanders.