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Flemish secesionists leading in Belgian election

Loyal readers of this blog know that we have a long-running obsession with the ongoing cultural-linguistic dispute in Belgium — Leffe-anon for short. The situation is looking a bit more serious this week with a party led by outspoken Flemish nationalist Bart de Wever poised to win a majority in this weekend’s national elections:  What ...

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Loyal readers of this blog know that we have a long-running obsession with the ongoing cultural-linguistic dispute in Belgium -- Leffe-anon for short. The situation is looking a bit more serious this week with a party led by outspoken Flemish nationalist Bart de Wever poised to win a majority in this weekend's national elections: 

What once seemed a fantasy of the political fringes suddenly has, in the mouth of a man seen as a possible prime minister, taken on an air of plausibility.

"We are in each other's face," he told 800 party faithful ahead of Sunday's vote. "And together we are going downhill fast."

Loyal readers of this blog know that we have a long-running obsession with the ongoing cultural-linguistic dispute in Belgium — Leffe-anon for short. The situation is looking a bit more serious this week with a party led by outspoken Flemish nationalist Bart de Wever poised to win a majority in this weekend’s national elections: 

What once seemed a fantasy of the political fringes suddenly has, in the mouth of a man seen as a possible prime minister, taken on an air of plausibility.

"We are in each other’s face," he told 800 party faithful ahead of Sunday’s vote. "And together we are going downhill fast."

De Wever’s party is forecast to win 26 percent of the vote – way up from 3.2 percent in 2007. That means his party will probably emerge as the biggest in Parliament with the right to try to cobble together a coalition government. However, he is unlikely to get other mainstream parties to vote for a Belgian breakup.

That is why De Wever seeks no immediate split but advocates a gradual and orderly breakup of Belgium to punish Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists for three years of political gridlock that has prevented them from addressing Belgium’s urgent economic problems.

Some of the fringier elements of the Flemish nationalist movement are likely to gain as well: 

The far-right Vlaams Belang, forecast to win about 15 percent of the vote in Flanders, denounces what it calls a Nazi-style "Anschluss" (annexation) by French speakers of Flemish territory in their push for "Lebensraum" (living space).

Gooik’s Mayor Doomst, using quite different language, says the Flemish feel insulted by a refusal of French-speakers to negotiate. It is why opinion polls show 40-45 percent of Flemish voters will support separatist parties, he says.

The stumbling block as usual is Brussels, a French city in the middle of a Flemish region. While an immediate divorce is highly unlikely, this weekend’s result seems likely to prolong the country’s political dysfunction. The other subplot of this is that Belgium is scheduled to take over the rotating European Union presidency on July 1, meaning that the EU is likely to be led by a government in the process of slowly dissolving itself. 

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

Tag: Europe

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