Belgium’s ‘Super Sunday’ of elections shifts to the right

Last weekend, Belgium held a ‘Super Sunday’ of European Parliament, national, and regional elections that resulted in a shift to the right in more prosperous Dutch-speaking Flanders and to the left in French-speaking Wallonia. The strongly polarized results will make negotiations to form the country’s federal and regional governments difficult. Belgium holds the world record for the longest period without a government at 589 days from 2010 to 2011.

The results showed continued decline of the traditional mainstream parties, the liberal Reformist Movement, the Socialist Party (PS) and the Christian Social Party (CSP) – cumulatively down from 70 percent in the 1990s to 45 percent today.

Flanders moved sharply to the right in support of the nationalist Vlaams Belang (VB) party, at the expense of the more moderate separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) party that had participated in the last federal government. VB is allied with other nationalist parties in the movement spreading across Europe, led by Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy and Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National in France. Topping the results, VP gained 23 seats from six, taking 19 percent of the votes – an incredible 13-point surge on the last triple elections in 2014.

VB party leader Tom Van Grieken boasted the new Belgian federal parliament will possibly “never have been so massively Flemish nationalist” as Belgium’s King Philippe has begun to broker the new governing coalition. The constitutional challenge for the King is to get parties representing both of the country’s major linguistic communities, Flemish and Walloon, to collaborate in a coalition that can command a parliamentary majority.

There was a clear vote of no-confidence in the liberal Reform Movement (MR) party’s outgoing government coalition under Prime Minister Charles Michel leading up to the triple election. Prime Minister Charles Michel’s liberal Reform Movement (MR) party has been running the country of 11 million people in a caretaker capacity since December. Belgium effectively runs two separate elections in the Dutch and French-speaking regions, with no national parties, after which forms a sort of federal coalition government from both sides of the linguistic divide.