Green Fences

November 26, 1991

Because it is Europe writ small, the paralysis resulting from Belgium's election Sunday is ominous. The previous patchwork coalition government seems incapable of being put together again.

Although the former coalition parties still hold a majority of the 212-seat parliament, they are at odds with each other and lack the two-thirds needed to create more home rule for Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons. Veteran Prime Minister Wilfried Martens and traditional parties took a drubbing.

One-fifth of the voters backed parties outside the previous pale of respectability. Environmentalists and anti-immigrant extremists made the big gains in each language community.

These are the concerns wracking politics throughout Europe. King Baudouin must find a leader who can form a government. And all Europe must wonder if the Belgian model of paralysis is its future.

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