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Flanders: Huge leap for Vlaams Belang, N-VA biggest party
Extreme right party Vlaams Belang made the most gains in yesterday’s regional and federal elections, while N-VA got the most votes at both the regional and federal level. Vlaams-Belang emerged as the second-biggest party in the Flemish region and the third-biggest at the federal level.
While nationalists N-VA and the traditional parties – Christian-democrats CD&V, liberals Open VLD and socialists SP.A – lost ground yesterday, Vlaams Belang, Groen and the workers’ party PVDA gained points. At the Flemish level, N-VA lost 7 points to get 24.8% of the vote. Vlaams-Belang gained 12.6 points to end at 18.5% of the vote.
It is followed by CD&V (15.4%), Open VLD (13.1%), SP.A (10.4%), Groen (10.1%) and PVDA (5.3%). For PVDA, yesterday was a breakthrough: The party has earned its first seats in the Flemish parliament.
While N-VA will again have the most seats in the Flemish parliament at 35 (out of 124), the question political reporters, analysts and other parties are asking is if N-VA will enter talks with Vlaams Belang, which has 23 seats. If so, it would make history by breaking the cordon sanitaire in place against Vlaams Belang, a party with the tagline “Our People First”.
Rise of Vlaams Belang
In the elections of 1991, Vlaams Belang – then known as Vlaams Blok – broke through at the federal level. That day has since been known as Black Sunday.
A year later, the Flemish parliament, then known as the Flemish Council, approved a resolution condemning Vlaams Blok’s 70-point immigration platform as being in conflict with the European Declaration on Human Rights. The cordon sanitaire soon followed.
The agreement was that no party in Belgium would ever form a coalition government at any level with Vlaams-Belang, regardless of the number of seats won by the party in any election. Though it has always had seats in the Flemish and federal parliaments, it has always been in the opposition.
While polls and analysts expected Vlaams Belang to make notable gains in yesterday’s elections, the strength of the surge came as a surprise. It is being referred to as another Black Sunday.
So far Open VLD is the only Flemish party that has clearly stated that it will not form a coalition government with Vlaams Belang. N-VA chair Bart De Wever noted yesterday evening that his party never signed on to the cordon sanitaire as it did not exist at the time.
“I could say that I will go and sit in the opposition,” said Vlaams Belang chair Tom Van Grieken this morning on Radio 1 this morning, “but that’s not the signal the voters have given. I don’t know what the negotiations will lead to, but I think pragmatically, and I extend a hand to all other parties.”
The Flemish parliament in numbers
N-VA: 35 seats (-8)
Vlaams Belang: 23 seats (+17)
CD&V: 19 seats (-8)
Open VLD: 16 seats (-3)
Groen: 14 seats (+4)
sp.a: 12 seats (-6)
PVDA: 4 seats (+4)
sp.a-one.brussels: 1 seat (+1)
Photo: Jonas Roosens/Belga