Belgium: election victory for Flemish nationalists

The nationalists of the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), who want more autonomy for Flanders, have won the general election in Belgium, with the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) party coming in second. Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced his resignation after his liberal party Open VLD suffered considerable losses. Now N-VA leader Bart De Wever has the task of forging a coalition government. What lies ahead for the country?

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De Standaard (BE) /

Masterclass moves needed

The leader of the Flemish nationalist N-VA will have to make compromises, De Standaard concludes:

“In the heated election campaign De Wever made the decisive turn away from the radical right-wing VB, in full competition with the centre. Now he has no choice but to continue on this course. He is thus transforming the N-VA from a party of radical change into a party of solid leadership. ... This will require masterclass moves in dealing with future coalition partners. ... But he must also form a government with them quickly and decisively, and that means compromises and moderation. And finally, he must keep enough voters with radical and Flemish-nationalist ambitions in line.”

De Morgen (BE) /

De Wever's options narrowed

The situation is complicated, De Morgen notes:

“The N-VA received a mandate from its voters for a hard right-wing austerity logic, but [the Flemish social-democratic] Vooruit also gained ground with a programme that goes in the opposite direction. ... Vooruit's problem is that since the [Walloon social-democratic] PS dropped out it's the only party left that can defend a more left-wing programme. ... Paradoxically, the PS's exit also narrows the options for Bart De Wever as prime ministerial candidate. He, too, now knows that he must either work with Vooruit or he won't govern at all. A right-wing austerity policy won't succeed here. Not to mention a confederal state reform.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

A unique opportunity for radical change

Voters want fundamental change, says La Libre Belgique:

“The voters have realised that lethargy has become unsustainable. The status quo is pushing our regions to the bottom of the socio-economic rankings in Europe. ... The message from the voters is clear. By punishing the left they have demanded structural socio-economic reforms. The liberals and the centre-right have a unique opportunity to draw a line under the mistakes of the past. They must quickly seize this opportunity.”