Belgian coalition wins poll as far-right gains ground

Belgium's far-right Vlaams Blok party made big gains and won a record number of protest votes in a national election yesterday which appeared to have been won by the ruling coalition of Liberals and Socialists.

The anti-immigration Flemish separatist Vlaams Blok increased its showing in its strongholds and won almost one in five votes in Flanders, but seemed to have failed to become the third biggest party there by a narrow margin.

The shape of the new coalition government will be determined in negotiations over the coming weeks but the outgoing Prime Minister, Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the centre-right Flemish Liberal party, claimed victory last night.

Mr Verhofstadt, whose party had been neck-and-neck with the Flemish Christian Democrats, led by Stefaan De Clerck, was hoping to retain power with his rainbow coalition, which included the Greens and Socialists. Support for the Greens slumped disastrously, according to yesterday's early results, but both the Liberals and the Socialists made gains.

"This is a fantastic result," Mr Verhofstadt said, adding the coalition was ready to pursue his programme of economic reforms and tax cuts. "The government emerges stronger from these election results."

According to estimates for Flemish television, Mr Verhofstadt's Liberals were heading for 23.5 per cent of the vote in Flanders, with the Christian Democrats at 21.5 per cent, the Socialists at 21 per cent and the Vlaams Blok at 19.5 per cent.

There was no question of the Blok winning a place in government because mainstream parties refuse to work with the right-wing populists.

But much attention focused on the performance of the far-right, which has shown itself to be a growing force in Belgian politics. Under the slogan "Our own people first", the Blok wants to close borders, deport criminals and illegal immigrants and use cash inducements to persuade those legally in Belgium to "return home".

The Blok's leading light, Filip Dewinter, admitted even before the polls had closed that "the chances that we will make it into government are very small." Nevertheless, the party, which won 15.4 per cent of the vote in 1999, increased its percentage significantly. Its strong performance at the polls could place a question mark over the "cordon sanitaire" constructed by Belgium's political elite to exclude the Blok.

Mr Dewinter has exploited his position in opposition to take advantage of government failings and a recent expenses scandal which provoked the resignation of the city council in Antwerp. During the campaign, the party sought to boost its voter appeal by enlisting a former beauty queen, Anke Vandermeersch, as a Senate candidate. Some critics argue that only by allowing the far-right a share of power will voters come to realise that its policies are unworkable.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam