“Belgians face their destiny,” headlines Le Soir, in response to the announcement that King Albert II, aged 79, will abdicate in favour of his son Crown Prince Philippe, aged 53, on July 21, which is Belgian National Day.
“The moment is both historic and unexpected,” remarks the Francophone daily, which reports that the sovereign is tired and eager to avoid having “to contend with a dreaded election in May 2014” [which will be both federal and regional], and the threat to the unity of the country represented by the prospect of an N-VA victory.
Le Soir points out that in this regard, the king’s choice “is very canny” —

… he has put the future of the monarchy, and more importantly the country, in the hands of the Belgian population who are the sole decision-makers: no king, whether he be a beloved 80-year-old, or 50 and yet to be trusted, will be able to sanction or prevent the breakup of this country.

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