elections in belgium: three birds, one stone

Article published on June 24, 2014
Article published on June 24, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The Bel­gians have been to the bal­lot boxes to elect their rep­re­sen­ta­tives at three lev­els of power. The break­through of the N-VA, a Flem­ish na­tion­al­ist party, was con­firmed. The far right has al­most been wiped out and the rad­i­cal far left party en­ters into Par­lia­ment.

On the 25th May 2014, Bel­gium ex­pe­ri­enced a unique elec­toral mo­ment: Bel­gians turned out to vote in the Eu­ro­pean, fed­eral and re­gional elec­tions. Suf­fice it to say that these elec­tions will leave their mark on the Bel­gian po­lit­i­cal land­scape for years to come...

Far-right Vlaams Be­lang loses out to the N-VA

Just as the polls pre­dicted, the N-VA, the Flem­ish sep­a­ratist party, is the big vic­tor in these elec­tions. In Flan­ders, Bart De Wever's party has gone be­yond the 30% mark. On a na­tional level, it reaped 20.3 % of the votes, with the fran­coph­one So­cial­ist Party (PS) and the Dutch-speak­ing Chris­t­ian party CD&V trail­ing far be­hind with 11.7 and 11.6 % re­spec­tively. The N-VA has ben­e­fited from the fall of Vlaams Be­lang, the far-right anti-EU party, which fell from 7.8 to 3.7 % at the fed­eral elec­tions.

Groen, the Flem­ish green party, has, for its part, taken al­most 2% of votes at the Flem­ish elec­tions. The same can­not be said for its sis­ter party on the fran­coph­one side: Ecolo suf­fered a hu­mi­lat­ing de­feat. The dam­age is most no­tice­able on a re­gional level: at the Wal­loon par­lia­ment, the num­ber of seats be­long­ing to the green party has fallen from 14 to 4. The blame has been placed with the de­ci­sion to cease re­im­burs­ing Green Cer­tifi­cates to pro­mote the pro­duc­tion of green en­ergy. It would also seem that the PTB, the rad­i­cal far left party, has been able to profit from Ecolo votes: two mem­bers of the party are en­ter­ing into the fed­eral Par­lia­ment. 

THE MA­JOR­ITY LIM­ITS THE DAM­AGE

De­spite the cri­sis and the bud­getary cuts made by the Di Rupo gov­ern­ment (PS), the par­ties of the for­mer coali­tion have man­aged to limit the dam­age. The So­cial­ist Party came first in Wal­lo­nia and Brus­sels, but lost 2% at the fed­eral elec­tions. The other par­ties of the for­mer coali­tion re­main sta­bilised.

In 2010, fed­eral pol­i­tics took on a slow pace due to the lengthy ne­go­ti­a­tions around form­ing a gov­ern­ment. In­deed, it was only after a wait of 541 days that the so­cial­ists, lib­er­als and chris­t­ian de­moc­rats fi­nally formed a gov­ern­ment, a world record. As a re­sult, they only had two and a half years to im­ple­ment the Sixth State Re­form, with the sup­port of the greens.

In short, the gov­ern­ment could re-en­list for a sec­ond term, but this would mean that the main vic­tor in the elec­tions, the N-VA, would not be part of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. King Philippe has, how­ever, given Bart De Wever the ini­ati­tive to com­mence ne­go­ti­a­tions with a view to con­se­quently form­ing a gov­ern­ment.

right to vote: the bel­gian ex­cep­tion

Bel­gium is one of the four mem­ber States where the right to vote is co­mul­sory. Cyprus, Greece and Lux­em­bourg com­plete the list. Fol­low­ing the ex­am­ple of its neigh­bour Lux­em­bourg, Bel­gium recorded an elec­toral turnout of about 90%. Res­i­dents of the two other coun­tries, on the other hand, did not turn out to the bal­lot box in such large num­bers: 58.2 % of  Cypri­ote vot­ers and 44% of Greeks went to vote.

In the EU as a whole, 43.1 % of vot­ers dropped their bal­lot paper into the bal­lot box, re­main­ing sta­ble in re­la­tion to the 2009 fig­ure. Eu­ro­pean lead­ers are over­joyed that, for the first time since eu­ro­pean elec­tions were in­tro­duced, there has not been a drop in voter turnout.

bel­gium for dum­mies

Don't know how the Bel­gian po­lit­i­cal sys­tem works? Have a look at this amusing video (in Eng­lish) which ex­plains why Bel­gium is one of a kind: