Believe it or not: Belgium has been in crisis for about two months now, a crisis which peaked last week-end when King Albert II himself had to intermediate between the parties and which became even worse last night after a difficult meeting that lasted until 4.30 AM. In the meantime, newspapers and websites are organizing polls about whether Flanders should become independent or reunite with the Netherlands. So where do you think the King is while all this is happening? In his palace in Laken, listening to the radio every hour or checking the news bulletins on the television? Nope, he's having a vacation in the South of France. Ceci n'est pas un roi…
So what is it a Belgian king is supposed to fill his time with? From time to time, he has to make a speech on radio and television, watch a military parade, appoint peers, accept the oath of a federal Minister, produce offspring, sign some laws, and, well, that's about it. And yes, play the post-electoral theater piece every four years consisting of appointing, interviewing and discharging the coalition negotiators that are supposed to form a new government.
Considering all this, one would think that while Belgium is going through one of the worst existential crises of the past decades, the King would stay in the capital making sure he's available every single hour of the day in case the negotiator needs assistance. After all, if Belgium falls apart, he would be the first to lose his job. Or more correctly: he would be retired, and his eldest son and Crown Prince Philippe would take the real hit. But if you look at his behavior of the past few days, it seems he doesn't really care. Where was he, even though everybody in Belgium knew since this morning that there was a serious chances that Yves Leterme, the current/former Prime Minister in waiting, would be forced or want to give up his efforts to form a government some time in the afternoon or evening? In the South of France! Apparently nobody had even bothered to warn him that maybe it would be a good idea to return to Belgium, just in case, instead of drinking cocktails in the sun by a swimming-pool. Talk about getting your priorities right.
The result of all this: Yves Leterme had to wait several hours until the King finally decided the time was right to come back from the South of France and meet Leterme. Not only did the King show everybody that he has absolutely no interest in what's supposed to be his full-time job, he even managed to block the process of forming a new federal government in Belgium for several hours. If a president were to do something like that, he would probably have to resign as well.