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After four years of rule by the Social Christian (Catholic) Party, Belgium last week got a new government, headed by moderate Socialist Achille van Acker, 56, a stubby, ever-smiling ex-basketworker who has been Premier twice before. Presiding over a coalition of Socialists and free-enterprising Liberals, Premier van Acker will control in votes in the 212-seat Chamber of Representatives. The Social Christian Party, still Belgium's biggest despite its electoral losses, will have 95 seats. The Communists, who had seven seats before, are down to four. Europe-minded Socialist Paul-Henri Spaak, who could have been Premier, preferred to serve as Foreign Minister.

While Belgian Catholics still smarted under defeat, Catholics in the neighboring Netherlands celebrated their restoration as the nation's biggest party. In nationwide elections for provincial councils (which do not directly affect the national government), the Catholic People's Party polled 31.5% of the vote, inching past their coalition partners in the national government, the Socialists, who gained slightly themselves, to poll 29.4%. Chief losers: the Communists, who polled only 284,284 votes, a decline of 15%.