BRUSSELS Belgium's government formally collapsed on Monday when the king accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme following a dispute between Dutch- and French-speaking parties over voting boundaries.
The monarch has asked Leterme to stay in a caretaker role while he considers the options, including the prospect of new elections.
Following are some possible scenarios.
Unless the king finds a way to break the deadlock, Belgium appears headed for an early election in June. Elections were originally scheduled for 2011.
But political analysts predict elections will be chaotic and could be boycotted in some constituencies.
The dispute is centred on the split of the election constituency of Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde, known as BHV, which has different rules to the rest of the country.
Voters in BHV can elect either French-speaking parties in Brussels or Dutch-speaking parties outside the capital.
Belgium's Constitutional Court said in 2003 that this was unfair given that the rest of Belgium's voters must vote along linguistic lines -- for example, a Dutch speaker cannot vote for a party from a French-speaking region.
It ruled a solution must be found before elections can be held. Failure to do so would in theory mean the polls would lack a clear legal basis.
Other analysts point out, however, that elections went ahead in 2007 and that the constitution also states that elections must be held within 40 days of dissolving parliament.
RESHUFFLE IN COALITION GOVERNMENT
Leterme's five-month-old coalition grouped five parties from centre-left to centre-right.
The Flemish liberal democrats, Open VLD, who pulled out of the government and caused its collapse, and their francophone counterparts MR, could be replaced by two opposition parties.
But the opposition is reluctant to step in and revive a government which it argues will never be able to function effectively.
Leterme's coalition government could stay on as a minority government if a certain number of coalition partners are prepared to accept such a solution.
Analysts say there is no political will to support such a minority government, however, and point out that it would struggle to resolve the issue of political boundaries around Brussels.
(Reporting by Antonia van de Velde; Editing by Dominic Evans)