Belgium recently surpassed Iraq to become the country that has gone longest without forming a government, after elections in June 2010 handed a plurality to a Flemish separatist party. In an email interview, Dave Sinardet, professor of political science at the Free University of Brussels and the University of Antwerp, discussed Belgium's long-running political crisis.
WPR: Why have tensions between Wallonia and Flanders become so pronounced in recent years?
Dave Sinardet: Three key elements can help to explain the complex political crisis in Belgium. First, there is a structural element: the absence of national political parties. All parties are either Flemish or Francophone, and do not contest the entire country in federal elections. Due to the organization of the electoral system, these parties only address themselves to voters of their own language community. This encourages polarized positions and centrifugal tendencies.