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Belgium Prepares for National and Regional Elections Amid Political Uncertainty

Brussels, June 09, 2024, The Europe Today: Belgium is set to hold national and regional elections on Sunday, a significant event coinciding with the European Parliament elections. The elections come at a time of heightened political tension in the linguistically divided nation, split between Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south.

The upcoming vote is anticipated to see a surge in support for far-right Flemish separatists, which could complicate the formation of a new government. Belgium’s recent history of lengthy government formation processes adds to the concern. The 2019 federal election saw a record 493 days pass before a new prime minister was sworn in to lead a seven-party coalition government. The 2010 vote set an even longer record of 541 days to form a government, still unmatched globally. With growing support for the far right in Flanders and the far left in Wallonia, there are fears this record could be challenged once again.

Far-Right Gains in Flanders

Opinion polls suggest two Flemish nationalist parties are poised to win the most votes in Flanders. The far-right Vlaams Belang, advocating for Flanders’ independence, is expected to secure over 25% of the vote. This rise aligns with broader far-right gains across Europe and follows the victory of ally Geert Wilders in the Netherlands last year.

Close behind Vlaams Belang is the right-wing nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which could garner around 20% of the vote. Despite Vlaams Belang’s expected success, other parties in Flanders, including the N-VA, have historically agreed to exclude the far right from regional government. N-VA leader Bart De Wever, who aspires to be the next prime minister, has repeatedly stated he will not form a coalition with Vlaams Belang.

Shifts in Wallonia

While Dutch-speaking voters in Flanders lean towards the right, French-speaking voters in Wallonia are expected to support the far left. The Socialist Party is predicted to win up to 25% of the vote, although its dominance may be challenged by the far-left Workers’ Party. The latest Ipsos poll indicates the Workers’ Party could achieve close to 20% support in the Brussels region and 15% in Wallonia, potentially increasing their seats in the federal parliament from 12 to 19.

Impact on Government Formation

The anticipated gains for both the far-right Vlaams Belang and the far-left Workers’ Party mean that about 45 seats in the 150-seat Belgian Federal Parliament could be held by radical parties likely to be excluded from any government coalition. This exclusion could further complicate the already challenging process of forming a stable government.

Economic and Political Implications

Poorer Wallonia, whose economic decline began in the 1960s as Flanders’ economy prospered, traditionally favors national unity. The region would likely struggle economically if it were to become independent, adding another layer of complexity to the potential political shifts resulting from the election.

As Belgium approaches this critical vote, the nation and its political leaders brace for the potential challenges ahead, hoping to navigate the complexities of their political landscape with a focus on stability and progress.