The elections to the Flanders Parliament were held on May 26th, together with the elections to the EU. The results showed an increase for the Flemish independence parties: for the first time they are close to an absolute majority, since they hold 45% of the seats.
Since its appearance at the beginning of the 20th century, Flemish nationalism has had an increasing influence on Belgian politics. Although initially limited only to making demands related to language (at that time speakers of French dominated Dutch speakers), from the mid-Twentieth Century it adopted a more political character and in the last 30 years veered from federalist to clearly pro-independence positions..
The centre-right pro-independence N-VA party received the most votes (35 seats in the Flanders Parliament) but has lost eight seats. This party participated in the former federal government of Belgium and apparently some pro-independence voters have not forgiven that. On the contrary, the other pro-independence party, Vlaams Belang (far right) won 17 seats (now it has 23) and has become the second force in parliament.
The Flemish independence movement, therefore, has 58 of the 124 seats in Parliament.
The Flemish christian democrats, once powerful, have become the third political force, and behind them are the liberals, the greens and the social-democrats. The aforementioned political parties (except for the Greens) are of a Flemish nature, since in Belgium the Liberals, Social Democrats and Christian Democrats are divided into two sections (on the one hand the speakers of French and on the other those of Dutch, the latter being those who have representation in the Flemish Parliament).
Despite being pro-independence, the main Flemish party (N-VA) is not currently demanding a referendum on self-determination. It is seeking a confederal government for Belgium, in which Flanders would have exclusive powers (including a fiscal regime similar to that of the South of the Basque Country).
This proposal has gained increasing acceptance among all the Flemish parties, because even those who are not pro-independence believe that it is the only option to keep the Belgian state together (even if it is only for a few more years). It worth bearing in mind that in Belgium, since 1970, six State reforms have been made for that purpose. Will we see the seventh soon?
On the other hand it is significant to highlight the weakness of left-wing nationalism in Flanders. The left-wing independence movement has no seat in the Flemish Parliament.
During recent years Flanders has been ruled by a coalition government, formed by N-VA (independence), CD & V (Christian Democrat) and OPEN VLD (liberal). “That formula could be repeated now, because the numbers permit it,” Bernard Daelemans, Director of the pro-independence magazine MEERVOUD told NAZIOGINTZA. The extreme right represented by Vlaams Belang has little chance of entering that government, because all other political parties (including the N-VA) isolate that political group. Still, some have taken into account Vlaams Belang’s electoral rise. “The Belgian king himself, for the first time, invited the president of the far right party to his palace,” Daelemans tells us. “That has deeply irritated the francophones”
In the short term, confederation seems to be the only way to maintain the unity of the Belgian state, since the strength of the independence movement in Flanders is increasing. In any case, the new reform of the State necessitates a constitutional reform and this requires highly significant majorities in the Federal Parliament (in which Francophones and Flemish unionists have a majority). What will happen? Whatever happens, along with Catalonia and Scotland Flanders is the nation that has the greatest possibilities in the short term to change European borders.