Dutch-speaking Liberals, one of Leterme's five coalition parties, quit the Cabinet, accusing their Francophone counterparts of blocking a deal to break up the Brussels-area district the constitutional court ruled illegal in 2003.
In 2003 the constitutional court ruled the bilingual Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde voting district illegal as it violates the separation of Dutch- and French-language regions. It comprises officially bilingual Brussels but also 20-odd towns in Dutch-speaking Flanders around the capital.
Dutch-speaking politicians have long complained the district lets Francophones – who have moved from Brussels into Dutch-speaking suburbs – vote for French-speaking parties in the capital.
Leterme's alliance of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists – split into Dutch and French-speaking camps – agreed to resolve the voting district issue by Easter 2010, a deadline that was missed, leading to the government's collapse.
"We are the end of our rope," Guy Vanhengel, a Flemish Liberal, said yesterday. "I think that efforts to come to a negotiated settlement are not succeeding."