"The country is in its fifth month without a government. There is talk of abolishing the nation. Insults fly across the linguistic border which splits Belgium into Francophone Walloon and Dutch-speaking Flemish halves.
If ever there was a moment for the monarch to act this would be it. After all, the royal family is the most potent symbol keeping this fractious nation of 10.5 million bound together. Too bad the aging King Albert is largely palace-bound, struggling with a replacement hip.
The king still meets with key political negotiators as the government crisis extends into 130-plus days, but his lack of impact reflects the dwindling fortunes of the Belgian monarchy.
"There is no longer this blind awe. You sense the palace no longer has a grip on things," said Pol Van Den Driessche, a senator-elect with the Flemish Christian Democratic Party and royal expert."