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Belgium elections: Beginning of the end of a nation?

Will Bart De Wever's Flemish party victory in Sunday's Belgium elections mark a north-south split that leads to an independent nation of Flanders?

Bart De Wever, president of the Flemish right-wing party N-VA (New Flemish Alliance), speaks at the start of a party meeting at the Flemish Parliament in Brussels June 14, 2010. The Flemish separatist N-VA party claimed victory after Belgium's parliamentary election on Sunday and projections showed they were on course to gain the most seats in the lower house.

REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

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Sunday's Belgian elections brought an unexpectedly big win for a Flemish separatist.

The result leaves the existence of Belgium as a nation – and its heavy debt load – hanging the balance.

Bart De Wever, a Flemish-speaking Belgian centrist politician who hopes his country will “gradually evaporate,” won an outright victory yesterday. Analysts say Europe could be witnessing a slow motion train collision for Belgium’s fragile political unity – and a broader lesson on the rise of extreme or fringe in European politics.

Sunday's snap elections highlight festering language and identity differences in Belgium. The north is home to the wealthy conservative Dutch (Flemish)-speakers, a region called Flanders. The south is run by the less-economically robust socialist French-speakers, a region known as Wallonia.

What happens now? Mr. De Wever, who won 27 seats on a platform to slowly administer Flanders out of the country – will enter complex and lengthy talks on forming a new government with Elio Di Rupo of the French Socialists, who won 26 seats running on a campaign of higher spending.


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