Countdown to the Belgian Federal Elections

On April 22, Open VLD, the Flemish Liberal Party, withdrew from the Belgian government coalition after having lost confidence in the government’s handling of the complicated dossier surrounding the electoral district of Brussel-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV).

On April 26, the Belgian King accepted Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s resignation.

Elections were called for Sunday June 13, only half a month before the start of Belgium’s EU presidency.

Snap elections are never easy on political parties. Election programmes have to be made in a rush, candidates’ lists have to be composed in no time: chaos. Furthermore, much energy, time and money was spent on the last elections (regional and European), which only took place last year.

Many Belgians are tired of all this political uncertainty. Ever since the 2007 federal elections, which led to a government formation process that took about 9 months, the Belgian federal government has been unstable.

Although it is compulsory to turn up to the polling booth in Belgium, this election campaign has seen an unprecedented amount of people call for not voting.

That is worrying, as these elections are very important for socio-economic reasons and for the future of Belgium. Belgium’s institutional problems and the tensions between Dutch-speaking and French-speaking are what is picked up most in the foreign press. It would, however, be exaggerated to state, like the FT’s Stanley Pignal, that “the economy has barely featured in the campaign”. Many parties have emphasized their plans to cut costs. Others are campaigning on strengthening social security, for instance by reforming the pension system, and on cutting costs where it will least hurt Belgian social security.

The latest polls

The latest polls indicate huge gains for the Flemish nationalists of the N-VA (New Flemish Alliance). The most recent poll, from the newspaper La Libre Belgique predicts that 26% of the votes in Flanders would go to the NV-A. That would make the separatist party the largest party in Flanders. In Wallonia, the PS (socialist party) would remain the largest political group, with 30% of the votes. In Brussels, the MR (Francophone liberal party) leads the polls, with around 23%.

As there never is a dull moment in Belgian politics, we look forward to updating you on the latest developments in these last 5 days in the run up to the only poll that counts, to be held on Election Day June 13.


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