Bart De Wever seems untouchable in Antwerp

An opinion poll released only 9 days before the local elections of 14 October, puts the Flemish nationalists of N-VA in pole-position in Antwerp. N-VA leader Bart De Wever is the leading candidate to become Antwerp's new Burgomaster. In Ghent, the new alliance between socialists and greens stands strong.

The opinion poll covered the cities of Antwerp, Gent, Bruges, Hasselt and Leuven. It was carried out by the Flemish public broadcaster VRT and Het Laatste Nieuws, except for Antwerp where the VRT cooperated with De Standaard.

In the five provincial capitals, the N-VA manages a breakthrough. The Flemish nationalists are not causing a landslide though except in Antwerp, where Bart De Wever seems untouchable.

Most provincial capitals are in socialist hands, in Bruges the SP.A has a good chance of claiming the post of Mayor as the present Mayor Patrick Moenaert (Christian democrat) is not standing for election. Another general conclusion is that the outgoing burgomasters have a bonus, Antwerp is the exception here.

Antwerp: Bart De Wever seems "untouchable"

Antwerp is the biggest Flemish city outside Brussels has half a million inhabitants. The present Mayor is the socialist Patrick Janssens, who faces a fierce battle against the popular Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever (photo). If the polls come true, Mr De Wever will take it with ease.

The N-VA has been credited with 37.2% of the votes, against 27.7% for the list of Patrick Janssens, a joint venture between socialists and Christian democrats. An individual poll also puts Bart De Wever ahead, leading Mr Janssens by 10%.

Ghent: purple rules

Ghent (East Flanders) was ruled by a coalition of socialists and liberals with the socialist Daniël Termont as Burgomaster over the past 6 years. However, the SP.A triggered angry reactions with their liberal coalition partners of Open VLD when they decided to cooperate with the greens of Groen in a so-called cartel. The greens and socialists are going to the polls as one, but the greens and liberals have somewhat conflicting ideas.

The Open VLD was not happy about that, arguing the cooperation with the SP.A was excellent. However, it seems unlikely that the liberals could oust the socialists in a right-wing coalition, as the N-VA and CD&V (Christian democrats) are not doing too well. Voters are also very happy with Mr Termont's policies.

Greens and socialists have almost 43% of the votes, the liberals almost 19%, the N-VA just over 17%, while the CD&V and far-right Vlaams Belang stay below 10% according to the poll.

A change of power in Bruges?

Bruges (West Flanders) sees an equal battle between CD&V, SP.A and N-VA, with scores between 20 and 25%. The outgoing Burgomaster Patrick Moenaert will not stand for re-election and this has weakened the CD&V.

The socialists of SP.A could take over the leading role and have the former Mobility Minister Renaat Landuyt (photo) become the new Burgomaster.

The N-VA emerges in Hasselt

Hasselt (Limburg) is still dominated by Helemaal Hasselt, the cartel between socialists and greens, but it loses about 10% and has to give up its absolute majority.

The N-VA climbs to 23%, CD&V has almost 18%. The outgoing Mayor Hilde Claes (SP.A) is a candidate for a new six-year-term, but is facing a real challenge.

Louis Tobback still rules in Leuven

In Leuven (Flemish Brabant) the SP.A of Mayor Louis Tobback (photo) dominates with 34% of the votes. The N-VA jumps to second place with 18.3%. The Leuven inhabitants are happy with the course followed by Louis Tobback and see him continue for yet another term, despite his age of 74. A new term would keep him in the driving seat until he turns 80. Mr Tobback, a man with a long career in Belgian politics, has been Leuven Mayor since 1995. He is the father of Bruno Tobback, the present Flemish socialist leader.