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Verhofstadt’s party in trouble

Published on 23/05/2007

23 May 2007

BRUSSELS (AP) – The popularity of Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and his Liberal Democrat party took a hit in a poll released Tuesday, less than three weeks before parliamentary elections.

Instead, the opposition Christian Democrats were surging in first place and the extreme-right Flemish Interest party remained strong in second place in the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, where 6 million of the nation’s 10.5 million citizens live.

The survey did not include the Francophone region of Wallonia in the south, where Socialists remain the most popular party.

Verhofstadt came in at No. 4 in the popularity stakes in Flanders, garnering 35 percent support in the poll conducted by daily De Standaard and VRT television.

Flemish Christian Democrat leader Yves Leterme was the most popular leader with 49 percent support and his party also remained the one to beat in the June 10 elections.

The Christian Democrats held power before Verhofstadt’s liberal-socialist coalition won the elections in 1999 and held on four years later.

Verhofstadt’s Open VLD party continued to hover in fourth place with only 17.3 percent support, while his socialist SPA coalition partner in Flanders stood in third place with 20.4 percent.

The anti-immigrant Flemish Interest party remained second with 20.7 percent support but looked unable to profit from its strong local elections results last October which had it winning seats at the cost of Verhofstadt’s party.

The prime minister’s party has failed to claw back any ground since the last poll in March which had the party standing with only 16.9 percent support.

The poll, conducted between April 17 and May 11, questioned 4,206 people in Flanders. It did not give a margin of error.

[Copyright AP 2007]

Subject: Belgian news