Home Brussels De Croo quits as Belgian PM after election failure

De Croo quits as Belgian PM after election failure

by editor

BRUSSELS — Belgian leader Alexander De Croo said he would be “resigning” as prime minister after his centre-right party saw its vote-share plummet in Sunday’s national election.

“For us it was a particularly difficult evening, we lost,” De Croo told his supporters at a rally. “From tomorrow, I will be a resigning Prime Minister.” 

De Croo will stay on as caretaker prime minister until a new government is in place.

“I am convinced that we need a new government quickly, with full powers,” he added. “The voter’s signal is clear.”

De Croo’s Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats scored 5.7 percent of the vote, exit polls showed, a 2.8 percentage point drop on 2019’s result. 

Belgium shifted to the right in Sunday’s election, but an expected extremist landslide didn’t happen.

The far-right separatist Vlaams Belang party, which had led the polls in recent months, grabbed 21 percent of Flemish votes Sunday — but failed to overtake its Flemish conservative rivals New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which became Belgium’s biggest party with around 25 percent of Flemish votes. 

Belgium’s mainstream had been bracing for a far-right win in the north, with voters endorsing a plan to break up the country in just a few years and Vlaams Belang riding a wave of European far-right forces doing well across member countries in the June 6-9 EU election. 

In the event, the results clearly disappointed the Vlaams Belang crowd, which fell largely silent after the first official count came in after 6 p.m. The first speeches, which had been planned for around 7 p.m., were called off and attention shifted to the champagne, beer and pizza slices served.

“We’re not yet at the end of the election night,” Filip Dewinter, a former Vlaams Belang frontman, told reporters before toasting to a Vlaams Belang victory. 

In the southern part of the country, Wallonia, voters also inched to the right, with the French-speaking liberal Reformist Movement (MR) projected to become the biggest party with about 32 percent of the Francophone vote. The centrist Les Engagés finished second, based on preliminary results from around 8 p.m. The results were a shock to the center-left Socialist Party (PS), which has led the region for decades. 

“The big difference between the PS and the MR is that MR preaches work whereas PS preaches laziness. We are the only party that motivates people to work,” said Francophone liberal party member Gjergj Dodaj. 

The initiative to launch coalition talks would seem to lie with the center-right parties. Ahead of the election, N-VA leader Bart De Wever ruled out governing with the far-right Vlaams Belang; he will now have to find allies from the center and center-left to form a majority in the country’s federal parliament.

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