'Grow a beard for Belgium' appeal by actor Poelvoorde

Benoit Poelvoorde at a news conference in France, 10 December 2010 Benoit Poelvoorde already has a beard

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One of Belgium's best-known actors, Benoit Poelvoorde, has urged his fellow citizens not to shave again until the country finally forms a government.

Poelvoorde, star of black comedy Man Bites Dog and costume drama Coco Before Chanel, made his appeal on Belgian TV.

A caretaker government has been running Belgium since June, setting a post-war record for a period without government.

Parties from the Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south remain split.

"Don't be surprised by the stubble," said Poelvoorde.

"We have decided to stop shaving for as long as Belgium has no government. Let's keep our beards until Belgium rises again."

The actor was already sporting a neatly trimmed beard before his initiative this week.

It was not immediately clear how many Belgian men might down razors in response.

Perhaps the most famous Belgian facial hair outside Belgium is that of the characters Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus in the Tintin comic books.

Hercule Poirot, maybe the most famous fictional Belgian of them all, confined his growth to a waxed moustache.

Here is a selection of your comments about this story:

I have a beard, and I do notice that everything is working normally in Belgium, either because we don't have a 'government' or because 'governments' are irrelevant. Maybe it's my beard? I first grew my beard in 1978 when I lived in Tehran, and that was to fit in with the people who were protesting against the Shah; they wanted him replaced by the Islamic Republic! Thus I am fascinated that beards still have their place in life, political protest, etc.

Christopher Linney, Durbuy, Belgium

I think it will catch on. Many people across the country are fed up with the situation and how it looks abroad. I certainly am, and I am trying to explain what is going on to foreign colleagues. People assume that if there is no government, no one is in charge and there is chaos. In reality most powers have been devolved to the regional governments so everything goes on as normal. That's difficult to grasp. Besides in the meantime, the economy is growing and the budget deficit is improving. Did anyone mention we were the land of surrealism? Still tonight, my thoughts are that if I beard up the odds are I'll have even more explaining to do.

Xavier Veldeman, Koksijde, Belgium

What could women do? After all, we represent 50% of the electorate...

Dupret Emilie, Hoves, Belgium

I have started growing my beard. But I doubt if it would leave any impact on the politicians.

Haider, Hasselt, Belgium

On the one hand I do think it's a playful idea to show disagreement with the political deadlock in this country. I may join it, partly because I'm fed up with the divisive rhetoric used by some of the parties involved, but partly also because I just don't like shaving. However there are reasons why I probably won't join. For one thing, If it's meant to distinguish those who want to show 'solidarity' from those who don't, it reminds me of the Taliban's ban on men shaving off their beards on so-called religious grounds. In this perspective this action could be considered as divisive on itself, without the same consequences however. Besides that, I'm neither a fan of the Flemish nationalism that the beard would protest against, nor an unquestioning supporter of a 'Belgian' nationalism it would eventually advocate (although I do feel more sympathetic for the latter). To conclude, I don't want people to think they know my opinion, let alone judge it, from the way I look. They can just ask, we've had plenty of time to think of good arguments against this deadlock.

Okke, Ghent, Belgium

I'm trying to get the whole office to join me but they don't seem to be very enthusiastic about it. Maybe that's the reason why this country is "government-less"... nobody cares about Belgium enough even for growing a beard!

Antonio, Brussels, Belgium

This is a nice and funny initiative, but its result (if any) will show once more how much Belgium in fact is already split: Benoit Poelvoorde is a star in French Belgium and in France, but he is also almost totally unknown in Flanders. In other words, if many French-speaking Belgians follow his word and indeed let their beard grow, we'll see a change in southern (French) Belgium's overall pilosity, whereas the North (Flanders) will remain stubbornly hairless (most Flemings not being aware of this initiative at all)... Maybe the show won't be as cruel as the "Belgian Flag epidemics" that we saw in 2007 though (at that time, many French Belgians were hanging the Belgian flag from their front window... and hardly any Fleming). But it will be one more clear sign that this country is already divided. Our politicians still need to rubber stamp the division. This may take some more years I'm afraid.

Didier, Beauvechain, Belgium

I am from London and have lived in Belgium for 15 years and I still do understand the politics. Everyone here just makes jokes about the politicians. The people on the two sides get on fine, it's just the politicians who can't agree. I already have a beard, but I could stop trimming. I wonder if any of my friends and colleagues will do this. I doubt it will make any difference.

Brian Jackson, Ghent, Belgium

Don't forget Papa Smurf! No I won't be growing a beard. I think that everyone should be inspired by Poirot's moustache and style their hair in the same way as Tin Tin.

Jon Trew, Liege, Belgium

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