Protester shaves year-old beard with new Belgian government 06 Dec 11

(Reuters) – A Belgian radio presenter who grew a beard for almost a year in protest at protracted talks to form a government finally shaved Monday with new coalition about to take office.

Koen Fillet and almost 800 others joined the call for a beard protest by actor Benoit Poelvoorde in January 2011, when negotiations had already dragged on for more than six months after a June 2010 election.

Many of the protesters eventually shaved, including Poelvoorde, but Fillet said he had unwilling to give up.

“I had moments of weakness, but if I had shaved I would have faced the ridicule of the nation,” Fillet told Reuters, still sporting an impressive dark and grey beard that reached down to his chest.

In an elaborate ceremony at an impromptu barbershop set up at the studios of Flemish public broadcaster Radio 1 in Brussels, Fillet was eventually shaved facing a large press corps with a broad smile on his face.

Six Belgian political parties completed negotiations last week form a coalition government, a year and a half after parliamentary elections.

“I’m happy and relieved there is a new government. We will see whether it is a good government which does the right things,” Fillet said. He said he would not be available for future follicular protest of this kind, should Belgian politics face another impasse in the future.

“Absolutely not. I gave up my own destiny, I was no longer the master over my own appearance. I won’t do it a second time.”