Independence or just plain old good government wanted in Flanders?


By Alex Robertson
Sunday was Election Day for local government in Belgium, and over lunch there was much debate over the many parties to choose from, the likely coalition partners and oddly, the state of politics in the Ukraine.  But the real fun began when the results of the local elections came in.

The biggest city in Flanders is Antwerp and that election was won, though not by a majority, by the NV-A a right wing party oriented to Flemish independence.  The traditional party of government in the city for generations, the Socialist, were beaten into second place and out of office for the first time in most people’s memory.  It was like Labour being flung out of City Hall in Glasgow.

Now the fun begins trying to form a coalition.  It won’t be that easy, since the right wing stance of the largest party is shunned by the others.  The big loser, to nobody’s regret, is the Vlaams Belang ultra right wing party.  But they have enough votes to give the NV-A a majority if a deal can be done.  But the toxicity they would bring with them probably excludes them.

So on a bright sunny day, what was thought to be impossible actually happened.  The thing is, most people in Flanders and Antwerp don’t actually want independence.  The Flemish government has so much devolved power that they feel the lack of nothing.  They are even able to contract treaties with foreign countries if they choose to.

The only real resentment existing is that for every Euro spent in Flanders by the Federal government, another must be spent in Wallonia to the south of the country, which is much less populous and wealthy and which contributes much less to the material wealth of Belgium

So there is leverage for the NV-A if they want it.  And in his victory speech, Mr De Wever referred more than once to confederal reform which nobody seemed much to recognise or know what was meant.

The message of the night seems to have been the small parties lost, the left leaning parties lost and the big winner was the right wing pro-independence party.  What is clear is that much is expected from this new city government and their first time in power will depend very much on good sound competent government, with little public desire for ideological or self indulgent government.

Much the same as was the attitude to the first SNP government in 2007.

Interesting though that on the Euro mainland, all the pro-independence parties are right wing, and only Scotland has a left of centre party seeking independence.  I am not sure if there is any significance to this phenomenon or how great it is.  What is for sure is that the Flemish government elections next year are going to be a whole lot more interesting after Sunday afternoon.