Nation & World | Election frontrunner wants to split up Belgium | Seattle Times NewspaperGHENT, Belgium — The frontrunner in Belgium's elections Sunday is running on perhaps the ultimate in divisive proposals: the breakup of the nation.
Despite its status as the home of the European Union, Belgium itself long has struggled with divisions between its 6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones, but talk of a breakup was mostly limited to extremists.
Now, Bart De Wever of the centrist New Flemish Alliance is pressing for exactly that. What once seemed a preposterous fantasy of the political fringes has, in the mouth of a man seen as a possible prime minister, suddenly taken on an air of plausibility.
According to all polls, the Flemish independentists are going to win these elections in a landslide - around 40% of the Flemish are going to vote for parties supporting the break up of Belgium.
Belgium used to be a centralized country until very recently. Its regions were given more and more autonomy, it became a federation 20 years ago, and it is likely to become a condeferacy very soon. The next step is, according to Bart De Wever, leader of the Flemish independentists, a total break up between Flanders and Wallonia.
A Flemish independence is unlikely in the short term, because countries like France would refuse it, and because we disagree about what to do with Brussels. But on the other hand, I don't know any other country where the main theme of the elections is the possible split up of the country, or where independentists are the main political party.