Conservative Win Blocks Far-Right Landslide in Belgium Vote

(Bloomberg) -- Belgian voters delivered a rebuke of Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s governing coalition, though stopped short of handing the far-right the landslide victory polls had predicted.

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Most members of the seven-party coalition suffered losses at the ballot box, with the main opposition party being the surprise winner. The nationalist-conservative New Flemish Alliance, or N-VA, is set to capture the most seats, according to the country’s home affairs federal public service.

“We have won these elections,” Bart De Wever, president of the N-VA and mayor of Belgium’s second-biggest city Antwerp, said at the party’s election headquarters. “And admit it, you didn’t expect it!”

A strong showing by extremes on both ends however might protract talks to form a new government. Growing discontent over everything ranging from immigration to the cost of living propelled the far right to second place with the Marxists posting their best showing ever.

De Croo’s own party took the heaviest losses and already ruled out joining a new government, party leader Tom Ongena told VRT Nws. Ongena also announced his resignation as party leader.

Political fragmentation and a hollowing out of the political establishment could mean the country of about 12 million is set for another complicated and protracted round of talks to form a coalition government.

Mounting debt and budget deficits will add pressure to the formation process, said Dave Sinardet, a professor of political science at the Free University of Brussels, “especially if the EU threatens sanctions.”

Votes for the European Parliament — also cast on Sunday — show the far right as the largest Belgian party. The country’s capital region of Brussels hosts EU institutions and NATO’s headquarters.

Click here to follow Bloomberg’s live European election coverage.

From Italy to Sweden, far-right and nationalist groups have been moving into positions of power across the EU, with various populist parties having a strong showing in the vote for the bloc’s parliament.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally trounced President Emmanuel Macron’s liberals — prompting snap elections — while in neighboring Germany the controversial AfD came in second, collecting more votes than Chancellor Olaf Scholz’ social democrats.

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