Belgium appears headed into even more confusion following this week's election in which voters shifted markedly to the right. While voters showed their disapproval of the centrist Social Christians their rejection was not substantial enough to dislodge them as the dominant political force in the country alongside the Socialists.
But with Liberals making heavy inroads into the Social Christian vote, the result is a deadlock with the Nov. 8 election producing no clear winner.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mark Eyskens has submitted his resignation after his centrist Flemish Social Christian Party lost substantial ground in the popular vote to Liberals in both Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia. In this divided nation, the political parties are split into separate Flemish- and French-speaking factions.
But the Socialist Party also gained seats in Wallonia making the outcome of the poll more complex and threatening to revive strong regional tensions.
The inability of any single party to capture a clear majority of seats, insures that Belgium will again be forced into another coalition government. It will be the country's 32nd government since the end of World War II.
The improved position of the Liberals could result therefore in a Liberal-Social Christian coalition especially since the Social Christians had expressed interest in just such an alliance after they had earlier split with the Socialists over economic and industrial policies.
A Liberal-Social Christian coalition would be more attuned ideologically to push through tough economic, budgetary, and social measures which the Socialists have strenuously opposed.
The Liberals, who were not in the previous government, have been advocating severe budgetary belt-tightening and are being likened to the policies of President Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Such a Christian-Liberal team in government would also be more likely to acquiesce in the deployment of US cruise and Pershing II nuclear missiles that the previous Christian and Socialist coalition had trouble accepting.
While such a right-of-center Christian-Liberal coalition still seems as the most probable composition of the next Belgian government, it would mean the exclusion of the Socialists who consolidated their leadership in the French-speaking part of the country. The Socialists also have virtually ruled out cooperation with the Liberals and the Flemish Social Christians.
The next few days and weeks are expected to be filled with intense back-stage maneuvering until Belgium's monarch, King Baudouin, can find a prime minister who can forge a new combination from among the major warring factions.
In the immediate election aftermath, few appeared to be pushing for the job which most of their predecessors have held on to for just a number of months before their fragile coalitions fragmented because of the country's bitter regional, economic, and political divisions.
Other major outcomes were the elections of four ecologists to the parliament. This is the first time any of the new breed of candidates have actually been elected to a national legislature which is partly attributed here to the fact that some 500,000 new voters over 18 participated for the first time in a national election.
In addition, some 8 percent of national electors cast blank or void ballot in spite of widespread apathy or disillusion with the frequent election stalemates here.