Right-wing Flemish parties gain in regional Belgian elections
Rightwing parties, seeking high autonomy for Flanders, came out ahead in Belgium's regional elections Sunday, complicating the already fraught relations between the francophone and Dutch-speaking communities.
Some 7.7 million Belgians, who are obliged by law to vote or face a fine, were being called to elect parliaments in Dutch-speaking Flanders, French-speaking Wallonia and bilingual Brussels for five years.
Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy's CDV Christian Democrats won more than 23 percent of the vote in Flanders while its partners in the federal government coalition trailed with 15.3 percent for the Socialists and a fraction less for the liberals.
While the CDV has a place assured in the next regional Flemish government, the future of current coalition partners, the liberal Open VLD, was less certain after losing five percentage points for 15 percent of the vote.
However, other possible candidates, the pro-Flemish independence New Flemish Alliance NVA and the extreme right Vlaams Belang, could make for tricky coalition partners despite strong showings.
Their ascent will likely complicate the CDV's efforts to negotiate with Francophone parties in Wallonia on prickly reforms of the state, which most Flemish parties want to lead to greater devolution of powers.
Fearing a "radicalisation" among the Flemish, the head of the French-speaking Socialists Elio Di Rupo called for a "minimum of stability" within Belgium's federal coalition government, to which his party currently belongs.
Although polls had predicted a painful setback for the Francophone Socialists after recent scandals, the party only lost slightly more than four percentage points with 32.8 percent of the vote, according to provisional results.
The result put the party ahead of the liberal Reform Movement in Wallonia as it failed to capitalise on the scandals dogging the Socialists.