EU Strategy & Geopolitics

Belgium has the same range of political parties than elsewhere… but double!

Left: sp.a (14 seats) on Flemish side / PS (20 seats) on French side
Green: Groen! (4) /Ecolo (8)
Centre: CD&V (23), including Jean-Luc Dehaene, Yves Leterme (outgoing Prime Minister) and Hermann Van Rompuy (European President) / cdH (10)
Right: Open VLD (18) that left and let the government fall / MR (23), including Didier Reynders
Extreme Right: VB (16) and LD (5) / FN (1)

In addition, Belgium has pure linguistic parties that preach some sort of community independence: N-VA (8) on Flemish side / FDF (included in MR) on French side.

In the last few years, the CD&V and MR went away from the other moderates to form alliances with the linguistic parties (N-VA and FDF). The objective was to counter extreme right; the result was to reinforce community preferences.

What is BHV?
BHV is an electoral district which gathers Brussels and a portion of the Flemish area, of which towns of Hall and Vilvoorde. Because Brussels is bilingual, the lists of the entire district are bilingual.
  • Flemish does not accept that a French-speaking party could be elected and govern a city in the Flemish region. Therefore, they demand to divide the district in a bilingual part and a Flemish part.
  • French speakers are opposed to the split because French-speaking voters are established in this portion of the Flemish area. Therefore, they demand compensations such as moving Flemish cities to the Brussels area.

Last but not least
As the vote is obligatory in Belgium, populism often prevails on ideologism, which may gives the impression of a Comedia dell’ arte show. Election campaigns often reinforce extremism and governments take several weeks, if not months, to be formed.

From July 1st, Belgium will join Belgian Van Rompuy to preside Europe… Between a presidency phantom and a phantom of president, Europe will rely on an English countryside Baroness!

David Mekkaoui (29APR10)
Author :


  1. A quick background check could have told you that it was the CD&V that allied with the NV-A.

    When speaking about Right, Left & Centre, I assume you are speaking Economically, not ideologically…

    If economically, your division of the parties isn’t entirely correct, but can still pass for “vaguely true”.

    If ideologically, it’s just plain off the mark altogether
    You might want to reconsider branding CDh as Centre (they are too closely linked to the PS for that), the CD&V as Centre (they are too closely linked to the NV-A for that) and the Open VLD as Right (Liberals being more on the ideological Left…)

  2. Tom – Thanks for your comment, enriching the post with valuable specifications.

    Yes, the range is meant economically, as compared to other continental political places. And you are right it is more subtle than that, although that alone can help draw the overall picture to clarify the situation.


    David Mekkaoui (10MAY10)

  3. First ,because we got the euro now in belgium there can be no Run on the FRank,So the belgium money is safe so this is helping the Flamish potiticians to be able to stop ALL francophone demands in the negotiations about a new government.Also because of the euro they can now go for the Flamish Price …Do as they want without having to consider Any francophone language demand in BHV

  4. Verheijen – Thanks for your comment.

    I agree Euro is an economical safety net and could play a role in the negociations. However, we should be careful about the misleading and oversimplified concept that Flanders is about economical successes while Wallonia is mainly about unemployment and social aid.

    For 200 years through World War I, French-speaking Wallonia was a technically advanced, industrial region, while Dutch-speaking Flanders was predominantly agricultural. This disparity began to fade during the interwar period. And the Flemish economy has grown strongly export oriented, in particular of high value-added goods. However, this is moving again and Wallonia is not anymore one of the poorest regions as classified by the Commission in March 1993 (“Belgium Fights the Demon”).

    The current Walloon economy is relatively diversified, with some world leader companies in their specialized fields, including glass production, lime and limestone production, cyclotrons and aviation parts. Plus the south of Wallonia, bordering Luxembourg, benefits from its neighbour’s economic prosperity, with many Belgians working on the other side of the border, and the Ardennes area south of the Meuse River is a popular tourist destination with places such as Bastogne, Dinant, Durbuy, and the famous hot springs of Spa.

    Who knows which region will dominate tomorrow’s Belgium…

  5. Again, some comments from a North-Belgian citizen.

    The Belgian Lingual Laws forbid a French-speaking party could be elected and govern a city in the Flemish region. This causes the Flemish to demand a divide of the district in a bilingual part and a Flemish part.

    French speakers are opposed to the split because French-speaking voters are established in this portion of the Flemish area. They will only consider it in exchange for compensations such as legally adding some of the surrounding Flemish area to Brussels (safeguarding the interests of the Francophones in those regions).

    It may be interesting to note that the Flemish were originally in favour of a bilingual country; the Walloons, however, refused (probably thinking that, in time, French would again dominate).

    In reality, it’s basically all about power.

    The Flemish do not want the Walloon parties to have any say in Flanders. With the BHV electoral district, the votes of the Halle and Vilvoorde regions (legally Flemish but with some Francophones) are combined with those of Brussels (legally Bilingual but mostly Francophone), Walloon parties get a say in legally Flemish regions. (This, I think, does not work the other way though, considering the legal minimum representation of both communities in the Brussels Parliament)

    The Walloons, on the other hand, would like to expand the “Francophone” power of Brussels to the surrounding Flemish areas

    It’s a very difficult discussion. Both the Walloons and the Flemish probably want to give in on some demands, but both have made many strong promises in the past (and reneging on those means losing the next election).

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