BRUSSELS: Belgium’s King Albert 2nd announced his abdication on Wednesday in favor of his son, saying that after two decades at the helm of the tiny country he felt too old and frail to continue.
“I intend to abdicate on July 21,” Belgium’s national day, the sovereign said in a broadcast to the nation from the royal palace.
“After 29 years of reigning, I believe the time has come to pass the torch to the next generation.”
“Prince Philippe is well prepared. He and Princess Mathilde have my entire confidence,” the 79-year-old Albert said in the short speech, read first in French then in Flemish, Belgium’s two main languages.
“I am at an age never attained by predecessors,” he added. “My age and my health do not allow me to exercise my duties as I would like.”
There had been consistent reports that the sovereign was preparing to abdicate in favor of the 53-year-old crown prince. But many fear that Philippe, whom politicians said would likely be crowned also on July 21, lacks the tact and know-how.
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, however, said that the crown prince “has seriously and with a sense of responsibility prepared himself for his new functions.
“He can count on the government’s support,” said Di Rupo, flanked by the cabinet and speaking minutes after the announcement.