Posted on 29. May 2014
by Marian Cramers
It was the first time in our history that Belgium hosted the ‘Mother of all Elections’: citizens voted for the European, Federal and Regional Parliaments combined.
However the attention was directed away from the European topics. In fact, the elections were dominated by national interests caused by the expected landslide of the Nationalist New Flemish Alliance. Its polarising figurehead Bart De Wever stands for ‘change’, generally of the separatist kind. In the election, people gave him over 300 000 preferential votes, while Minister-President Kris Peeters from the Christian Democrats scored less than 150 000.
And indeed, the Nationalist New Flemish Alliance became the largest party in all levels of government: They got 26.7% of the votes for the EP, and well over 30% in the other parliaments. NV-A is a moderately pro-European party, but is far less in favour of the Belgian governmental structure. Our infamous 500 days of coalition talks in mind, it is very unclear whether De Wever will make it to Prime Minister, or a coalition of all traditional parties will be formed to keep him out.
As for the young, well-connected Belgians around me, the elections were a Facebook-worthy event with ‘Stemfie’ (voting-selfie) a new buzzword. Many of my friends used online tests to determine which party was most in line with their interests.
The results of the elections show that the traditional party landscape is outdated and the old parties fail to address the concerns of the younger generation. The young generation is very undetermined and losing its political identity. The impact of disengagement is obscured in Belgium because of the voting obligation, but no less real.
But there is also good news: Many of them live a life of intense interaction, easy mobility and shifting identities. So the European Parliament will have an opportunity to provide the space, stability and oxygen that is often missing in the Belgian national landscape.
This article is a part of a series of reflections by young Europeans, prepared in cooperation between FutureLab and Süddeutsche Zeitung Online. To read the original click here.