Elections 2024: Leaders' debate shows wide gap remains between N-VA and PS

Politicians Paul Magnette and Bart De Wever crossed swords on Tuesday in a debate broadcast on VTM and RTL-TVI. The debate showed that the gap between francophone socialists PS and Flemish nationalists N-VA remains wide, on both socio-economic and state reform issues. 

Le Grand Duel/Het Grote Duel pitted big names in Belgian politics against each other: De Wever of N-VA and Magnette of PS, the biggest parties in their region. Both men are candidates to become prime minister following the elections on 9 June.

During the bilingual debate, the leaders took questions from the audience on issues such as work, pensions, climate, migration and the future of Belgium. The conversation confirmed that the parties remain far apart.

Magnette, for instance, made it clear that he did not want to waste time discussing confederalism, one of N-VA's main agenda items. According to De Wever, however, only confederalism can prevent Belgium from stalling and going bankrupt. Socio-economic beliefs also continues to cause friction between the parties. 

What was clear after the debate is that the two sides are irreconcilable for now. Negotiations between the two, as in previous government formations, would not be easy. But that may not even be an issue. The two parties, according to recent polls, may not even be first in line after the elections.


N-VA leader Bart De Wever and PS leader Paul Magnette at the start of Le Grand Duel/Het Grote Duel © BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ

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