Bart De Wever, New Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA) party leader is the big winner in Belgium. EPA-EFE/FREDERIC SIERAKOWSKI

News Vote 24

Flemish nationalists set to retain lead in Belgian parliament, PM’s liberals take hit


Flemish nationalist party N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) was on course to remain the largest party in Belgium‘s parliament as the liberals of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo slumped, setting the country on course for months of challenging coalition talks.

“This is an extremely hard evening for us. We have lost this election”, De Croo said in a first reaction, adding he would take full responsible for the loss.

N-VA appeared to have held off a rise of Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), a hard-right party that wants to split Belgium and that opinion polls before the election had forecast would be the victor in the Dutch-speaking north of the country.

“Friends, we have won these elections,” N-VA leader Bart De Wever said to his supporters. “And admit it: you didn’t expect that. The polls were bad, the comments in the press were damning, but you never gave up.”

The Belgian vote coincided with elections to the EU parliament, in which the hard-right was seen scoring big gains in Germany and France, opinion polls showed.

With 72 per cent of the vote counted, N-VA had a clear lead over Vlaams Belang, with De Croo’s party back in sixth place in Flanders, partial results published on the interior ministry website showed.

Neither N-VA nor Vlaams Belang is part of the current seven-party governing coalition.

In the French-speaking south of Belgium, the outcome was less clear, with fewer votes counted.

Over the coming months, talks will seek to forge a governing coalition between the largely right-of-centre parties of the Dutch-speaking north, and the more left-leaning parties of the French-speaking south.

Indeed, Belgium holds the world record for longest government formation, taking 541 days in 2010-2011.

“Government formations in Belgium always take a long time and that is the expectation again now”, said Carl Devos, a politics professor at Ghent University.

De Croo’s government will stay on in a caretaker capacity.