- - Sunday, January 23, 2011

BELGIUM

March against political impasse draws thousands

BRUSSELS | Thousands of Belgians staged a march of “shame” in the capital Sunday to demand a government after a seven-month impasse between Dutch- and French-speaking politicians, a European record.

More than 30,000 people answered a Facebook call by students from both sides of the country’s language divide in the first demonstration of its kind since inconclusive June elections.

“What do we want? We want a government,” cried the protesters, mainly young people, many wearing white jumpsuits in what they had dubbed the march of “shame.”

The outfits were meant to recall the unprecedented “White March” of 1996, when 300,000 people took to the streets of Brussels to protest the crimes of Belgian child killer Marc Dutroux. It was the first of a series of street marches against official incompetence in the scandal, which had undermined confidence in the state.

The political impasse — in this country hosting European Union headquarters — reflects a sharpening divide between the Dutch-speaking north and the French-speaking south.

IRELAND

Green Party pulls out of coalition government

DUBLIN | Ireland’s Green Party said Sunday it was pulling out of Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s coalition government, in a move likely to spark elections even earlier than those planned for March 11.

Green Party leader John Gormley told a press conference in Dublin that “our patience has reached an end” after a week of political turmoil that resulted in Mr. Cowen quitting as leader of his ruling Fianna Fail party on Saturday.

However, he said his six lawmakers would support a finance bill considered vital to securing a $90 billion international bailout agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund in November.

ALBANIA

Opposition to hold anti-government rally

TIRANA | In a further escalation of the political crisis in Albania, the opposition on Sunday called for a fresh protest next week, only two days after the governing Democratic Party plans a similar rally.

Opposition Socialist Party leader Edi Rama urged people to come to a peaceful demonstration on Friday afternoon, a week after three people died and more than 150 were injured in clashes with police at a rally against the government they accuse of deeply rooted corruption.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha’s Democrats will hold a rally against violence Wednesday.

The opposition complains that police have not yet acted on arrest warrants issued Saturday for six officers of the national guard — army troops under Interior Ministry command who guard government institutions and senior officials.

The governing Democrats consider the warrants unconstitutional and say Prosecutor General Ina Rama is part of a coup d’etat by the opposition seeking to take power by force.

Western ambassadors are meeting Albania’s top leaders in an effort to mediate a compromise.

RUSSIA

Russians asked to vote on burying Lenin

MOSCOW | A new poll sponsored by the pro-Kremlin party is asking Russians to vote on whether it’s time to bury Vladimir Lenin.

The embalmed body of the man who founded the Soviet Union still lies on public display in a Red Square mausoleum almost 20 years after the communist state collapsed.

The contentious issue is raised almost every year around the anniversary of his death on Jan. 21, 1924.

It is not clear whether the government intends to abide by the outcome of the United Russia party’s poll, but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said that the fate of Lenin’s body will in the end be decided by the Russian people.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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