Vlaams Belang surges, N-VA biggest

First results show that Bart De Wever’s Flemish nationalists remain by far the largest political party in Flanders, while there’s been an extremely strong showing by the far right Vlaams Belang party of Tom Van Grieken.  Greens seem to have failed to live up to expectations and only increase their share of the vote marginally.

All three government parties, the Francophone and Flemish liberals and the Flemish Christian democrats have lost ground.  

Belgians went to the polls today to elect new federal and regional parliaments. All polling stations are now closed and the results are coming in.  Voters have decided the strength of the parties in the various assemblies and it will now be up to politicians to cobble together coalitions to run Flanders and Belgium.

Since the first breakthrough of the far right in 1991 all other political parties have shunned all co-operation and this is probably set to continue after the election.  This hasn’t seemed to deter voters who in VRT's forecast, have made Vlaams Belang the second biggest party in Flanders on 18% - a surge of 12% in comparison with 2014.

In recent years the Flemish nationalist party was the strongest by far.  N-VA polled over 30% of the vote.  The nationalists’ stint in government under Francophone liberal Charles Michel does seem to have dented their support.  Though still the largest by far N-VA polls 25.5% in the VRT forecast, down over 5%.

The Vlaams Belang surge means losses for most other parties: the biggest losses are for the Flemish Christian democrats of CD&V, who still remain the third party of Flanders on 15%.  There are smaller losses for the liberals on 12% and the socialists on 10% that are 4th and 5th.  The greens make only marginal gains taking 10%, while the far left Labour Party cross the threshold taking 5.5%.

Sunday evening Flemish party leaders took part in the traditional debate.  The hot question was whether anybody would join a government with the far right Vlaams Belang. Liberals, greens, socialists and far left rejected this out of hand.  Christian democrat leader Beke pointed to the policy differences that would make it impossible to make bridges, while Flemish nationalist leader De Wever added: “We’re no fans of a cordon around Vlaams Belang and of slamming doors in people’s faces.  Some people went too far in the past and adopted positions that weren’t realistic.  We shouldn’t focus on that tonight but seek solutions.”

Responding to the particularly strong showing of the Flemish far right Vlaams Belang outgoing Premier Charles Michel (Francophone liberal) says that Belgium hasn’t been spared the growth in power of extremist populism recorded in other EU countries.