Di Rupo Resigns After Flemish Nationalists Win Election

The Belgian prime minister steps down after his Socialist Party is defeated in the federal elections.

Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo of Belgium listens to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, during a conference in Brussels, April 4, 2014
Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo of Belgium listens to Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, during a conference in Brussels, April 4, 2014 (Flickr/Elio Di Rupo)

Belgium’s prime minister, Elio Di Rupo, resigned on Monday after his Socialist Party lost the federal election to the Flemish nationalists.

Bart De Wever’s New Flemish Alliance got 32 percent support on Sunday when the country voted in both national and European Parliament elections, making it the largest party in both Flanders and Belgium as a whole. Di Rupo’s Socialists won 30 percent of the votes.

Di Rupo will stay on as caretaker premier while King Philip consults with party leaders in order to form a new government.

After the last election in 2010, De Wever balked at cooperating with the Socialists who formed a coalition with a variety of Christian Democrat, liberal and socialist parties from Flanders, the Dutch-speaking north of Belgium, and Wallonia, the French south, instead — after a record 541 days of talks.

The Flemish nationalists will likely be able to form a government in their own region but nationally, they need the support of other right-wing parties from both sides of the border.

Flanders is Belgium’s economic powerhouse, accounting for almost 60 percent of its economy. The south is relatively impoverished and subject to high unemployment. With the socialists in power there, the Walloons nevertheless enjoy generous social security provisions for which the Flemish say they are footing the bill.

The Flemish nationalists’ victory came mainly at the expense of the more radical Vlaams Belang which favors outright secession for the north rather than more autonomy. The far-right party, led by Filip Dewinter, lost nine out of twelve seats in the national parliament and kept only one seat in the European assembly.