Beer and frites in honor of contradictions and political failure

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What does it take to form a government?

Belgians are not sure, but a lighthearted mood prevailed Thursday as Belgium overtook Iraq’s record in trying to form a government: 249 days and counting.

To mark the occasion, 249 people planned to strip naked in Ghent (though apparently only about 50 people got down to their underwear), while students in Leuven tucked into free frites and downed beer — Belgian, of course.

After general elections last June 13…the political deadlock has increased fears that Belgium, made up of French speakers in the south and Dutch speakers in the north, may actually split apart.

Forming a government has proved so difficult because Flemish nationalists want a new constitutional settlement to give regions more power over issues like the economy. In Flanders, the more prosperous part of the country, many voters hope to limit transfers of cash to subsidize Wallonia.

Historically, French language and culture have dominated Belgium and Dutch speakers once suffered discrimination, a fact that overshadows relations between the country’s two main groups…

Analysts believe that new elections are coming and that the issue of dividing Belgium will move up the agenda.

Jean Faniel, a political scientist in Brussels, said that, despite the crisis, it was important to Belgians to keep their sense of humor. The stripping, beard-growing and beer-drinking protests bore a distinctive Belgian character, he said. “Here we have an acute sense of self-mockery.”

You might be a redneck…?

So, what two countries will Belgium be next? UPDATED

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Belgians vote in a parliamentary election today for a government that could move toward breaking up the country and that will need to curb the third-highest debt ratio in Europe.

The Flemish separatist N-VA (New Flemish Alliance), which advocates the gradual dissolution of Belgium, is forecast to be the largest party in Dutch-speaking Flanders and possibly the country.

“The ballot box question is not whether but by how much the N-VA will win,” said Dutch-language newspaper De Morgen…

This is the first federal election from which a party advocating the end of Belgium could emerge the winner, although the N-VA were allies of the Christian Democrats in 2007.

The party’s lead in opinion polls has triggered a nationwide debate about the possible break-up of the 180-year-old nation, with Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia going their separate ways…

In the midst of a euro zone crisis, with financial speculators ready to attack budgetary laggards, Belgium, a country of 10.6 million people, can ill afford drawn-out coalition talks.

Belgium’s debt-to-GDP ratio, set to rise above 100 percent this year or next, is behind only Greece and Italy…

Some 7.7 million Belgians are eligible to vote. Voting is compulsory, with first-time offenders risking a fine of up to 55 euros.

Wow. Try that one on in some of our lazy-ass primaries.

UPDATE: Flemish separatists were the biggest winners in the election.