In a televised debate last week, for example, the moderator asked both Prime Minister Wilfried Martens and his challenger, Socialist leader Guy Spitaels, how they proposed to deal with the Fourons and their French-speaking mayor who refuses to use the Dutch language, or Flemish as people call it here.
Martens, who comes from Dutch-speaking Flanders but has learned to speak French as well, insists that he will not continue as prime minister unless the center-right coalition of his own Christian Democratic party and its Liberal allies keep a majority. But many analysts believe that the Socialists will make enough gains in the French-speaking Walloon region to prevent that majority.
If so, a center-left coalition of Christian Democrats and Socialists would probably have to govern. But Martens has said he would not lead such a coalition, for it would probably turn from some of his austerity policies. Since Spitaels, who comes from Walloon, does not speak Dutch, a possible prime minister could be Willy Claes, a Socialist leader who speaks both languages. Another possibility is Jean-Luc Dehaene, the minister of social affairs who is regarded as a member of the left wing of the Christian Democratic party.