Flemish Nationalist turning the scale: Belgian general Elections ahead

Belgium, 20 Apr - 03 May 2014
Parties define their positions for upcoming elections ++ French speaking parties reject N-VA state reform proposal ++ Flemish parties try to stand out against N-VA. by Christophe Ponsard
Parties define their positions for upcoming elections


Tension is rising as the national and regional elections of the 25th of May draw closer. The major reasons for this are the continuously high poll numbers for the flemish-nationalists of N-VA and their strong man Bart De Wever, and the leap the far-left list PTB-GO!/PVDA is making.

The rise on of the far-left party, polling around 10% in Brussels and Wallonia, is particularly relevant for the PS, the socialist party of prime minister Elio Di Rupo. It seems that for the first time in decades they would be able to get some seats in the parliament, which would go at the cost of seats for the PS, who see a drop in the ratings that is largely ascribed to the climb of the far-left. Seeing the need to convince voters on the left, the PS has strengthened their attacks on the N-VA. Di Rupo at one point even called the thinking of the party “medieval”, saying that N-VA falsely reduces every debate to a discussion between two homogeneous communities.

Critics of the N-VA agree with Di Rupo’s positions, as the party was campaigning with the message to choose between their model or the PS-model. It even got so far that a debate between Bart De Wever and PS-chairman Paul Magnette was organised to elaborate on their differences, that will get a televised second edition in May, just a good week before the elections. In the meantime the second largest party in Wallonia, the liberal MR, told that they too aren’t willing to form a federal government with the flemish-nationalists.

With that it is now clear that the French-speaking parties will put pressure on the Dutch-speaking parties to drop what is likely to remain the largest party of the land when it’s time to start negotiations. The Flemish socialists of sp.a. already said they wouldn’t join a government with N-VA in it, making it harder for N-VA to find necessary allies.

French speaking parties reject N-VA state reform proposal


Without making article 195 of the constitution available for review, the current federal government recently also boycotted N-VA’s election demand for a new state reform. Even though a new state reform has just been voted the party says it’s a necessary instrument to achieve their socio-economic program.

Not wanting to have any more state reform soon, the French-speaking parties in the federal government refused to put this essential article for a reform up for review. Despite some initial opposition from the Flemish majority ministers, who argued some other valuable laws can be passed with a revision of this article, they eventually got what they wanted. N-VA called this yet another bow to the feet of the French-speaking parties, with vice-chairman Ben Weyts adding that “the traditional forces put anything to work to block change”.

The effect in the end is that the election’s main theme, if it wasn’t that already, will be the socio-economical, which is exactly what the current majority parties want, according to an anonymous source. Here too the focal point seems to be the N-VA, who take strongly debated standpoints, for example the stance that unemployed people should do community service -a view supported by a majority of Flemish voters. Voices on the left, as well from parties and unions alike, made it clear they will fiercely protest such views, whom they call anti-social and likely to add to poverty.

Flemish parties try to stand out against N-VA


With the expected victory of N-VA the two parties who lost most of their voters to the flemish-nationalists, the christian-democrats of CD&V and the far-right flemish-nationalists of VB, try to regain these voters by going back to their core.

For the far-right party this means going back to a rhetoric on the edge of racism, with as prime example a game called “Minder, Minder, Minder” (meaning “less, less, less”), alluding to a speech of Dutch PVV-leader Geert Wilders who said he’d arrange for less Moroccans in the city of Den Haag. In the game the player can squash flies with the heads of politicians, stop mosques from being build, hit criminals with a bat, or use the tool to hit terrorists who fly on magic carpets.

CD&V on the other hand emphasises their front man and current minister-president of the Flemish Government, Kris Peeters. The argument here is that CD&V has in the figure of Peeters, the most experience and quality to tackle the socio-economic challenges that are faced. In a recent interview Peeters himself said that he’d pass for a Flemish government that he could not lead. With this he tried to put pressure on the N-VA, who failed to give a clear candidate who is to head the next Flemish government and execute the passed state reform.

N-VA did this by giving two possible candidates to succeed Kris Peeters after his second term, although the candidate from Peeters’ own province, Liesbeth Homans, seems to be the clearest rival for the spot. With CD&V as a necessary partner for federal and Flemish success, N-VA has been more calm in battling their former cartel partner, with whom they currently work together on the regional level, so a strong personal challenge is something they try to avoid.

However, as current polls stand the christian-democrats wont have enough leverage to make huge demands during negotiations with N-VA. The result of Kris Peeters, who is still the most popular candidate to follow himself up, will likely determine a lot of the fluidity the negotiations between the former partners will have. What is clear is that they depend on each other. N-VA needs CD&V to escape political isolation, CD&V needs N-VA to reclaim executive power. The relationship between the two parties will surely have an effect on all the others after the elections.

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Source: fdecomite | CC BY 2.0

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Bart De Wever
Ben Weyts
Elio Di Rupo
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