- - 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.

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