Belgian elections: a new start?

June 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm 1 comment

On June 13, federal elections took place in Belgium. The results are along the lines of the predictions. Both the Flemish nationalists of the New Flemish Alliance (NV-A), headed by Bart De Wever, and the Francophone Social Democrats (PS), led by Elio Di Rupo, emerged as the winning parties.

With only 2 weeks before the start of the Belgian EU Presidency (starting July 1), it will be interesting to see which direction the government formation process now takes and how this will impact Belgium’s six month tenure at the helm the EU Council of Minsters.

Winners

In Flanders, the NV-A secured a sweeping victory, with 27 seats in the Belgian Federal Parliament, an increase of 19 seats. This is nothing short of historical. This is the first time a non-traditional party –in other words neither the Christian Democrats, nor the Liberals nor the Social Democrats – has been elected as the largest party in Flanders. In Wallonia, the PS emerged as the strongest party, with 26 seats.

Losers

In Wallonia, Didier Reynders’ Liberal party, MR, lost 5 seats. The big loser of these elections in Flanders is former Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s Flemish Christian Democrats party, the CD&V. For the first time in history, the party’s result was below 20% (17.5%). The huge gains made by the Flemish nationalists make the losses all the more painful, as the CD&V and the NV-A went to the federal elections on a joint list during the previous federal elections in 2007. Together they secured a victory with 29%. In 2003 the newly formed NV-A was still struggling to achieve results higher than the electoral threshold. In 2009 the Flemish nationalists have won without the support of a traditional party.

The new government

If all goes well, a new government will be in place by September. According to analysts, one of the most likely coalitions for a new Belgian federal government is one that would comprise:

The Flemish Nationalists (NV-A)

The Flemish and Francophone Social Democrats (sp.a and PS)

The Flemish and Francophone Christian democrats (CD&V and cdH)

The Flemish and Francophone Greens (Groen! and Ecolo)

This type of coalition government would reflect the composition of Belgium’s regional governments. From a policy perspective such a new government would likely facilitate institutional reform and at the same time face tough decisions on socio-economic issues.

The person who is most likely to become the next Belgian Prime Minister is Elio Di Rupo, leader of the PS. He would become the first Francophone Prime Minister in more than 30 years.

Filip Dewinter: “Di Rupo Prime Minister! No way! Then I’ll move to Namibia…”

That Di Rupo, Francophone, the son of  Italian immigrants and openly gay would become the new Belgian Prime Minister is clearly not to the liking of the Flemish far right party Vlaams Belang, which sustained significant losses in these elections. On May 22, Filip Dewinter, leading member of Vlaams Belang, posted the following on his Twitter account: “Di Rupo Prime Minister! No way! Then I’ll move to Namibia…”. As it seems ever more likely that Di Rupo will indeed become Prime Minister, some people have taken up the task of reminding him of his promise. At this moment already, around 11 000 members of the Facebook group ‘Philip Dewinter should keep his promise’ agree that Mr. Dewinter should, indeed, move to Namibia.

Clearly, the impact of the Belgian elections will be far-reaching.

For further analysis of the Belgian elections, also on the possible impact the election results will have on the EU Presidency, we can refer you to our analysis of the Belgian elections on the FH Brussels website.

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A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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