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Revolution that started during brussels opera

It took nearly days of political horse-trading for Belgium to welcome in a new coalition government, led by Alexander De Croo. And it's the second time in 10 years that Belgians have seen that happen.

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Their exclusion could increase pressure for the break-up of Belgium's Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south. And yet the seeds of doubt were sown from the moment Belgium was born in When fpr to William I, king of the Union of the Netherlands, were asked to choose an opera to be performed in his honour in the city of Brussels inthey chose badly.

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Brussels was then part of the Netherlands, and seething resentfully under a monarch who alienated Dutch-speaking Catholics with his vigorous Protestantism and French-speaking Walloons with his Dutchness. The opera the courtiers selected was a popular work of the period - La Muette de Portici Mute girl of Portici - which lookint the story laton an uprising in Naples against the rule of the king of Spain.

Rather odd subject matter to celebrate the rule of an unpopular king over a smouldering population.

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At a pre-arranged al during an aria called Sacred Love of Country, the revolutionaries stopped the show, poured into the streets and began a revolution - and with it a long saga of confused identities that persists to this day. That issue of identity threatens to raise questions over the continued existence of the Kingdom of Belgium, now 10 years short of its th birthday.

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When I asked Peter de Roover, parliamentary leader of the moderate Flemish nationalists of the N-VA, about the story of revolution he wasn't impressed. Mr de Roover's serious point was that the language groups in the t uprising didn't have much in common and that has created a strained political relationship which persists to this day. The immediate focus for his party's anger now is the fallout from the parliamentary elections, in which his party came first and the far-right Vlaams Belang movement second, but do not feature in the beelgium government.

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For him it is an anti-democratic outrage. The new government to which Mr de Roover objects is a seven-party coalition which includes Greens, Socialists and Liberals in a marriage of convenience with Flemish Christian Democrats. To the protesters I met at a Vlaams Belang rally on the outskirts of Brussels the months of negotiations provided evidence that the Belgian state has simply run its course.

Kelly, a middle-aged man who'd travelled a long way to lattin there, put it like this: "It's better for Flanders to be independent, because in Flanders the right is winning and in the French-speaking south it's the left.

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When I asked him how long he thought Belgium would exist he said simply: "As long as the politicians don't listen to the people. Peter de Roover, for example, could imagine a future in which it remained as a kind of umbrella identity over two essentially independent states of Flanders and Wallonia. There could be a federal army, he suggested, but not a federal police force.

There's certainly a degree of pride in Belgium's national football team, the Red Devils, although several Dutch-speakers we met said they were drawn to supporting the Netherlands team instead. There are some bridges between the two biggest communities. There's no longer a single national broadcasting service, though separate channels are provided to the different language groups, Dutch, French and German.

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The general news agendas of Flanders and Wallonia are also entirely different. When the great French-speaking singer Annie Cordy died recently it was headline news for French-speakers and barely a footnote in Flanders. Joyce Azar points to unifying factors like the national football team and the king, but you do get the feeling she's operating a kind of one-woman air bridge across a widening gap.

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More and more the question is real. It might seem extraordinary that in stable, prosperous Western Europe, a real question mark hangs over the future existence of a democratic state. But consider the fate of the opera La Muette de Portici, which fell victim to changing tastes and times and has more or less ended up in the dustbin of history. Who is to say that the country whose revolution it once inspired will not itself one day follow suit?

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Revolution that started during Brussels opera. What future now?

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Text translation

More stories from Belgium. Belgian ex-king's love child wins royal titles Heart of Belgian mayor found entombed in fountain Brussels square named after Bronte sisters. This doesn't necessarily mean the idea of Belgian-ness is dead, though. Bridges between Belgium's communities.

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She can see the political dangers that lie ahead. More on this story. Published 29 May

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