Belgium: Commoner for A Day, or Two

Commoner for A Day, or Two

Fractious politics are a Belgian speciality: in the past decade the government has fallen eight times. Belgians have instead looked to their monarch, Baudouin, for stability -- until last week, when the King became a commoner for two days. Confronted with a bill passed by parliament that legalized abortion, Baudouin, a devout Roman Catholic, had the Cabinet declare him unable to reign so he could avoid signing the measure into law. The Cabinet promulgated the law instead.

In an emergency session, legislators voted the next day to restore the King to his throne. Baudouin's action apparently was legal under an obscure...