Regional Elections May Change Belgium’s Political Landscape

June 2, 2009 Updated: June 2, 2009

BELGIUM—The upcoming regional elections on June 7 in Belgium is expected to change the political landscape in the country. Several surveys indicate that the balance of powers among French speaking politicians will dramatically change, with big losses for the Socialist Party predicted. This predicted shift in the political landscape of the Wallonian and Brussels regional governments is in turn expected to influence national politics. Belgium's federal government has had to face serious communal challenges in governing the country since the 2007 federal elections.

On Friday May 29, RTBF (Radio Television Belge Francophone), the Belgian national TV for the French speaking community, published the results of a survey among Brussel’s voters. The race to become the ruling political party of the Brussels region will bring either Didier Reynder’s MR (Mouvement Réformateur), a liberal, or Jean-Michel Javaux’s Ecolo out on top. Both are expected to get 24 seats in the Brussels regional Parliament, quite a few more then the expected 13 seats for the Socialist Party, which would, in that case, lose half of the seats it currently has today.

A few days earlier, RTBF published the results of a similar survey for the Wallonian region, indicating that the Socialist Party rule in that part of the country would also weaken. The liberal MR is expected to gain 21 seats in the Wallonian regional parliament, while the socialist PS and the green Ecolo could each gain 20 seats.

If these predictions hold true this Sunday, this would bring a mayor shift in the Belgian political landscape. For the past 20 years the Socialist Party has been the biggest party in the Wallonian and Brussels regional governments. The predicted electoral defeat for the Socialist Party could open the way for regional Wallonian and Brussels governments formed by MR, Ecolo and the smaller CdH (Centre démocrate Humaniste). Facing an electoral defeat of this magnitude, the Socialist Party would have not much choice but to step out of the Belgian federal government as well.

And that’s where the regional elections might end up being much more important for Belgium then the Europen elections that are will be held on the same day. This would imply that Herman Van Rompuy would have to form a new government without the Socialist Party. A new start for the federal government might even be what many in the Wetstraat, Belgium’s center of political power, are hoping for, as the federal government faces numerous communal challenges.

Whatever the result of the voting will be, both MR’s frontman Didier Reynders and the PS chief Elio Di Rupo have clearly stated that they will not enter into a regional government together. This, in itself, would already guarantee a big change in the Belgian political landscape after Sunday’s elections.