Belgian election: Vlaams Belang loses ground to New Flemish Alliance

A separatist party was on course to win the most votes in Flanders last night for the first time in a Belgian general election, increasing the prospect that the country will split into the Flemish north and French-speaking south.

The New Flemish Alliance, led by Bart de Wever, 39, was heading for about 29 per cent of the votes in Flanders on a promise to break away from Wallonia and become an independent member of the European Union.

Mr de Wever has made Flemish nationalism respectable by advocating a gradual process of independence for Flanders, rather than the revolution preached by the ultra-nationalist Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), which gained about 12.5 per cent of the votes in Flanders, down 6.6 points on 2007.

Times, 14 June 2010