by the Public Affairs Team at Interel
The elections of Sunday, May 26, 2019, have shown that Belgium is more than ever politically divided. Just as during the local elections of October 2018, Flanders moved further to the right, while Wallonia and Brussels shifted to the left.
In Flanders, Vlaams Belang is the unexpected winner of the elections (18.5%, an increase of 12.6 percentage points). The far-right party became the second biggest in Flanders, behind the Flemish Nationalists of N-VA (24.8%, a decrease of 7.1 percentage points). Nevertheless, the current Flemish regional government coalition – N-VA, CD&V (Christian democrats) and Open VLD (liberals) – keeps its majority and will probably remain unchanged.
In Wallonia, the winners are the far-left party, PTB (13.7%, an increase of 7.9 percentage points), and the green party Ecolo (14.5%, an increase of 5.9 percentage points). PS (socialists) and MR (liberals) remain the parties with the most votes, despite both having lost approximately 5 percentage points. PS will take the lead in the government negotiations, with several possible coalition outcomes. The most likely scenario is a coalition of PS, cdH (Christian democrats) and Ecolo, although a MR-PS government would also have a majority in the Walloon Parliament.
Despite losing 4.6 percentage points, PS remains the biggest party in Brussels, ahead of Ecolo, which becomes the second party in the region (19.1%, an increase of 9 percentage points). The “green wave” following the 2018 local elections continues. Among the Dutch-speaking parties, Groen (sister party of Ecolo) is the biggest, followed by N-VA. Several coalitions are plausible, but most probably Brussels will reflect the Walloon governing coalition.
The Belgian political gap is most obvious at the federal level. All parties of the Swedish coalition (N-VA, CD&V, Open VLD and MR) lost seats, while the extremist parties on both sides of the political spectrum (Vlaams Belang and PTB) won significant votes, reducing the number of potential coalitions. Continuing the Swedish coalition is impossible. Even more exceptional is that for the first time since WWII a classic ‘tripartite’ (Christian democrats, socialists and liberals) is not sufficient to form a majority! In Belgian post-war history, such cooperation was the last lifebelt, when all other alternatives failed.
Based on the election results, which coalitions would be possible on the federal level? To form a majority, 75 seats are required.
1. Purple-green: Groen-Ecolo, sp.a, PS, Open VLD and MR (76/150)
A close, unstable majority with 76 seats.
Breaking point: During the campaign, Open VLD stated they were not keen on forming a coalition with Ecolo and PS.
2. The Antwerp-coalition: N-VA, Open VLD, MR, sp.a and PS (80/150)
This reflects the governing coalition in Antwerp.
Breaking point: Do arch-enemies N-VA and PS want to govern together? N-VA would only step into the venture with confederalism on the table.
3. Swedish-coalition + Greens: N-VA, Open VLD, CD&V, Groen-Ecolo, cdH, MR (86/150)
An unlikely coalition, as Ecolo repeatedly stated they were not willing to govern with N-VA.
4. National-unity coalition: CD&V, sp.a, Open VLD, Groen-Ecolo, MR, PS, cdH (95/150)
Perhaps the most likely, but it will be difficult to negotiate a government agreement with eight parties.
Breaking point: Do Open VLD and CD&V dare to exclude N-VA from the federal government if the three form the Flemish government?
Regional government negotiations will be led by the biggest party in each region. At the federal level, the King will conduct consultations with the political parties and appoint a formateur. One thing seems to be sure: negotiations are bound to be long and difficult.
About the author
The Interel Public Affairs team is a group of seasoned public affairs professionals from various backgrounds who follow closely the ins and outs of Belgian politics to help national and international companies navigate through the Belgian institutional labyrinth. You can contact them at: email@example.com.