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Belgium ends record-breaking government-free run

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
updated 11:41 AM EST, Tue December 6, 2011
Elio Di Rupo, of the Belgian Socialist Party, is expected to lead a coalition government of six parties.
Elio Di Rupo, of the Belgian Socialist Party, is expected to lead a coalition government of six parties.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It's the only country that has gone longer than Iraq without a government
  • It held street parties when it broke the record
  • Ordinary people say the lack of government hasn't been a problem
  • The last prime minister resigned on April 26, 2010

(CNN) -- The only country that has gone without a government for longer than post-Hussein Iraq ended its record-breaking run Tuesday.

Hint: It's in Europe.

Another hint: It's one of very few multiethnic countries still chugging along on the continent.

Got it yet?

OK, last hint: Home of Tintin, chocolate and the European Union.

Belgians shrug off political impasse

Yes, it's Belgium, which went 589 days without an elected government.

New Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and his ministers met the king and took the oath of office Tuesday, the Belgian Parliament said.

Di Rupo is due to make his first official statement as head of government on Wednesday.

That caps Belgium's year-and-a-half run without a government, since Prime Minister Yves Leterme's resignation was accepted April 26, 2010.

A temporary caretaker government had been in place since then, with politicians locked in a stalemate between the Dutch-speaking North and the French-speaking South.

Di Rupo, of the Belgian Socialist Party, is leading a coalition government of six parties, the Belgian Parliament said Tuesday.

Chocolatier Alice Le Fevre told CNN in September that the lack of a government had little effect on her daily life.

"For us it doesn't make any difference," she said. "We still have a life outside of work. We can go on vacation. We have public transport."

There were even street parties when Belgium claimed the world record title from Iraq earlier this year.

Some argued that political gridlock has even had its benefits.

"A government without power can't introduce new taxes," said Herman Matthijs, a professor of politics at the Free University of Brussels. "On the other hand, a government without full powers can't take new measures concerning the outlays. The political crisis relating to the public finance saved money."

State governments in Belgium continued to function normally during the crisis, as did the European Union.

But in the long term, according to Matthijs, Belgium needs a central government to make massive mandatory budget cuts and introduce reform of public finances.

CNN's Erin McLaughlin and Laura Perez Maestro contributed to this report.

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