“On July 21, King Albert II of Belgium will hand over the crown to Prince Philippe,” reports the Gazet van Antwerpen, in the wake of the surprise announcement that the sovereign intends to give up the throne due to his age and poor health.
Albert II succeeded in “saving the country from popular revolt” and “won the hearts of the population and the political class in the wake of the Dutroux Affair [in 1996] when he took the initiative to meet the parents of children murdered” by pedophile Marc Dutroux, writes the Flemish daily.
Albert II managed to preserve Belgium’s unity through several political crises, however —
… most political parties [in the country] now want a monarchy on Scandinavian lines, where the sovereign does not play any role in the legislative process or the formation of governments.
With regard to the future king, Prince Philippe, Gazet van Antwerpen remarks that he must now —
… sweep away scepticism about him, in a country that probably ranks as one of the most difficult to govern.