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US midterm elections results: Party leaders in Brussels have their say

11:24 08/11/2018

The US midterm elections on 6 November, usually overlooked in Europe, incited increased interest in Belgium as local media joined the international community in following the election race and a billed first referendum on president Donald Trump.

With the country going to the polls halfway between presidential elections to vote all 435 members of the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate and various state and governor positions, the outcome was seen as having a significant impact on the political landscape of the US.

Pollsters were celebrating as their predictions for the Democrats to take the house – the first time in eight years - and Republicans to hold and even strengthen their position in the senate proved correct.

As both parties claimed victory and questions being raised about the future control of Congress, the Bulletin asked local party representative for their reactions.

Belgian chair of Republicans Overseas Mike Kulbickas said it was a split decision but that his party did better than expected, “solidifying their margin in the Senate which will ease considerably judicial nominations over the next two years, especially for the Supreme Court but also for the Appeals Courts, too.”

Equally pleased was Pauline Manos, chair of Democrats Abroad Belgium: “We took the House, which will safeguard our health care and social insurance and bring back some oversight to the current administration; we still managed to hang on to most of those red-state Senate seats, and we even gained six governorships.”

With concern about how the two parties are going to cohabit over the next two years, Kulbickas commented on the new Democrat house majority: “If they purse endless and pointless investigations, and even vote impeachment of the president, they are likely to pay a big price in 2020, as well as rolling back some or even all of the economic gains of the past two years. They could seek common ground with Republicans in the Senate, but I doubt that much substantive legislation will be passed in the next two years.

In reference to the equal battle to increase control of the redistricting process ahead of the 2020 census, Kulbickas added: “Doing well in the governor races means they will be stronger going into the 2020 elections, but also better placed to benefit from the 2020 redistricting for the House.”

And the local Republican is optimistic for the presidential race in 2020: “In the end, Donald J. Trump, who to the surprise of many has united the Republican Party behind him during the midterms, will run again in 2020 and will be easily re-elected,” he said.

Manos focused on the increase in the number of women and candidates from minority backgrounds elected to government: “The face of American government is looking far more representative of the diversity of our country, which makes me especially proud.”

She was also happy to see the rise in voter turnout in the US extend to overseas voters. “This year we saw even more people in Belgium request absentee ballots through our site and we’ll be working hard to keep up that momentum into 2019 and 2020. Given that less than 10% of eligible Americans overseas vote from abroad, this work becomes increasingly important.”

Written by Sarah Crew