The 2019 Belgium federal election results came at a busy political time for Europe. On the same day as the European Parliament votes were counted, and just weeks after Spain elected a government, Belgium went to the polls.
Just 150 members were elected to Belgium’s Chamber of Representatives, but because there are so many political parties in this country, the vote is split a number of different ways. In fact, the top party got only 16 percent of the national vote. It does not take a lot of votes for a breakthrough result, but the competition is fierce. A party must get five percent of the constituency vote to qualify for seats, which are then allocated using a proportional system (D’Hondt method).
Going into this election, while Belgium also voted for their members of the EU Parliament, the question was this: how well will the Vlaams Belang do? Vlaams Belang (VB, the “Flemish Interest”), is a Eurosceptic right-wing party operating in Flanders that looked for a resurgence. Would they get it, and if so, what would it mean for the other various political entities in Belgium? One thing is for sure: the coalition math will be difficult.
2019 Belgium Federal Election Results
The secessionist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) will again be the largest party in parliament. They dropped eight seats to 25, but this is still five more than the Socialist Party (PS).
Moving up into third place is the VB with 18 seats, a gain of 15. They saw a massive rise in vote share, for example, in East-Flanders, jumping to 20 percent (up almost 14). Limburg was another similar story. Tom Van Grieken, VB leader, was among those elected to the Chamber of Representatives.1
Down in fourth place are the center-right Reformist Movement (MR), led by Belgium’s prime minister, Charles Michel. They dropped six seats to 14, which will hamper any effort they make to retain power.
Moving up into fifth is ECOLO, a French-speaking Green party with 13. Together with the Dutch-speaking Greens, they now command 21 seats in the federal parliament.
Building Coalitions After Belgium’s 2019 Election
In the prior parliament, the government was formed by the MR, Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V), and the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open Vld). They had only 52 seats out of 150, though they made Siegfried Bracke, an N-VA member, the speaker. He lost his seat in the 2019 election.2
Putting that same group together now would add up to only 38 seats, nowhere near enough to form a government. Even if the rest of the Chamber ignores the N-VA and VB’s 43 seats (not as easy as it sounds), a group still needs 54 for some sort of stability. Meanwhile, on the left, a coalition of the PS, Socialist Party Differently (sp.a), the two green parties, and the Workers’ Party (PVDA or PTB) gets them to 62. This is the path of least resistance if nobody will work with the N-VA or VB.
The parties seeking to form government, in particular those on the right, will have to ask themselves if it is worth it to work with the VB or N-VA. For the most part, they are regarded like the Sweden Democrats as a party with which no others will work. As one of the largest parties in the new parliament, however, taking that chunk of seats away will make it tough for anyone to form a coalition.3 Chances are that they will not be brought into government, which leaves the door open for the left to form a new administration if they cobble those numbers together.
2019 Belgium Federal Election Results by Constituency4
Antwerp: N-VA 8 (-3), VB 5 (+3), CD&V 3 (-1), Open Vld 2 (-), PVDA 2 (-), Groen 2 (-), sp.a 2 (-1)
Brussels-Capital: ECOLO 4 (+2), MR 3 (-1), PS 3 (-2), DéFI 2 (-), PVDA/PTB 2 (-), CDH 1 (-1)
East-Flanders: N-VA 5 (-1), VB 4 (+3), Open Vld 4 (-), Groen 2 (-), sp.a 2 (-1), CD&V 2 (-2)
Flemish Brabant: N-VA 5 (-), Open Vld 3 (-1), VB 2 (+2), Groen 2 (+1), CD&V 2 (-1), sp.a 1 (-1)
Hainaut: PS 8 (-1), Ecolo 3 (+2), PTB 3 (-), MR 3 (-2), CDH 1 (-1)
Limburg: VB 3 (+3), N-VA 3 (-2), sp.a 2 (-), CD&V 2 (-1), Groen 1 (+1), Open Vld 1 (-1)
Liège: PS 5 (-), Ecolo 3 (+2), PTB 3 (-), MR 3 (-2), CDH 1 (-1)
Luxembourg: Ecolo 1 (+1), MR 1 (-), PS 1 (-), CDH 1 (-1)
Namur: PS 2 (-), Ecolo 1 (-), CDH 1 (-1), PTB 1 (-), MR 1 (-1)
Walloon Brabant: MR 3 (-), PS 1 (-), Ecolo 1 (-)
West-Flanders: VB 4 (+4), N-VA 4 (-2), CD&V 3 (-1), Open Vld 2 (-), sp.a 2 (-1), Groen 1 (-)
1: “Who is in and who’s out after Sunday’s elections” (Vrt.be website, accessed 27 May 2019, in English)
2: “Siegfried Bracke is not elected and is considering stopping politics altogether” (Nieuwsblad.be website, accessed 27 May 2019, translated from Dutch)
3: “Belgium’s ‘Black Sunday’ sees far-right surge, threatens new government crisis” (by A. Brzozowski, Euractiv.com website, accessed 27 May 2019, in English)
4: “Officious Results” (IBZ and Federal Public Services Home Affairs website, accessed 27 May 2019, in English)