Elections 2024: What’s at stake for Belgium’s political parties?

Sunday is a busy day in Belgium, as voters decide who will take up seats in the EU, the federal and regional parliaments. Belga English explains what to look out for once the people have cast their vote.

In Belgium there are no big parties, only small and very small ones. This is due to the many different opinions, and the fact that Flemish and francophone votes are divided across separate parties.

The extremes

Extreme right and extreme left have become important players in Belgian politics. The extreme right Vlaams Belang is only present in Flanders, while Marxist PVDA/PTB – the only “national” party – has most success in the francophone part of the country. Both had a good start to the election campaign, with discussions on migration and security suiting Vlaams Belang, and PVDA/PTB particularly outspoken on the atrocities in Gaza. By the end of the campaign, however, both had suffered missteps.

The country’s other parties have all clearly stated that they won’t form a coalition with the extremes. And the extremes themselves prefer to remain in opposition.

The regionalists

Flemish nationalism has been strong in Belgium for decades. By the end of this election campaign, N-VA had the wind in its sails, with several parties seemingly open to a centre-right coalition. As it stands, N-VA leader Bart De Wever has the best chance of becoming the next prime minister, and he has stated his desire to be just that.

It’s almost certain that N-VA will also be the main party in the next Flemish government as the biggest mainstream Flemish party by far.

There is also a regionalist party on the francophone side: DéFi. They have always been rather small, and are now the victim of internal quarrels. However, the number of parties in Belgium, and the refusal to govern with extremes, means that reaching a 50 per cent majority isn’t easy, so a few of DéFi seats at regional or national level could be key to forming a government.

The greens

Groen and Ecolo both have a tradition of ups and downs. And this election, their fortunes seem to be on a downturn. While climate and the environment are top priorities in Belgium, green policies and politicians don’t appear to resonate with a large majority of Belgians.

It’s likely these two parties will revive an old discussion after election day: disagreements between the fundamentalist and the more pragmatic greens, with the latter blaming the former for disappointing results.

The socialists

These are not happy times for the socialists. PS was once the biggest francophone party in Brussels and Wallonia, but it could now fall into second place, certainly in the capital. The party has been damaged by competition from liberals MR on the right and from PTB on the left. Furthermore, there appears to be a broad shift to the right in Belgium.

Flemish Vooruit is much smaller than PS in its part of the country, and the picture is mixed. Former leader Connor Rousseau initially strengthened the party but also weakened it with a series of controversies. It’s very likely that Vooruit will be in the federal and/or the regional government, since the party can – and is willing to – fit into both a centre-left and a centre-right scenario.

The Christian democrats

In the old days, the two Christian democrat parties were always part of every government, but these days they have shrunk, and their biggest strength is that they can fit in any coalition.

Flanders’ CD&V, under new leader Sammy Mahdi, has worked hard in recent years to develop a stronger profile, but they have never been able to take centre stage in this round of elections. The opposite is true for the francophone Les Engagés: they nearly disappeared in recent years but are now being courted by several other parties as a potential partner.

The liberals

The present prime minister of Belgium will not have a second term. Alexander De Croo’s Open VLD has fallen victim to the fact that a Belgian prime minister always has to find compromises in office and thus weaken the profile of his own party. In the campaign, De Croo did his best to convince people that Open VLD is truly a centre-right party in favour of the individual.

Francophone liberals MR were also part of the federal government, but leader George-Louis Bouchez blocked several major reforms and decisions, making him very unpopular with many of his colleagues. Still, it’s very likely MR will attract more voters on Sunday.

The others

Several new and small parties are also on Sunday’s ballot paper, but are unlikely to have any impact.


#FlandersNewsService | © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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