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More than a difference in style between Flanders and Wallonia.

Last call: front cover election ads in metro. Dutch speaking edition: N-VA, French Speaking edition: PS. (Picture TDG)

With elections less than 48 hours away all political parties throw in their last efforts to persuade voters. In a campaign without a single dominant topic, attacks on adversaries and negative campaigning became the new normal.

The conservatives of N-VA are set to win the elections on the Flemish speaking side, with the only question remaining by how much percent. More than likely they will be nearly double the size of the second Flemish party. Who that will be remains to be seen: CD&V and Groen seemed head to head but last weeks poll suggests we might be heading for a new ‘Black Sunday’ with Vlaams Belang catapulting itself back on the scene at around 15%. Black Sunday (Zwarte Zondag) refers to the result of the federal elections of 1991, when former Vlaams Blok saw their seats in parliament grow from 2 to 12, growing from a negligible sized party in to a force to consider.

If the polled results would eventuate Sunday evening, the divide between Flanders and Wallonia will again grow substantially. With conservatives and the far right considered as the winners totaling 40% of the votes on the Flemish side (57% including the Christian Democrats), in sharp contrast with the (very) left oriented forecast in Wallonia: PS, Ecolo and PTB taking away around 60% of the votes together. The results of the Brussels Capital Region might alienate Flemish voters even further from their compatriots with good results expected for the Greens and the PS -despite a small setback- holding on to the second spot. Forming a coalition with the Flemish Nationalists is considered one of the main reasons for the French speaking liberals to lose a substantial share of votes in both Brussels and Wallonia.

In a very interesting article for, journalist PieterJan Desmedt analyses how the divide between Dutch and French speaking citizens also originates from the way the media is set up. Because French speaking politicians have no votes to win on the Dutch speaking side, and vice versa, they have no interest in interviews with media of the other language group. They don’t want to spent time coming to the other studio, leaving the journalist no other option then await them on the other side of the building and interview them while walking towards the elevators of the French speaking studio’s, “about 300 meters”: says Desmedt.

Completely bizarre? Welcome to Belgium where the public broadcast is split up between the Dutch speaking community and the French speaking community with their own TV and radio stations. But they are still both housed, for now, in the big building near the so called ‘Reyers Tower’.

It has been a long time plan that the VRT (Flemish side) and RTBF (Walloon side) will move to their own new buildings at different locations in the near future. Although ‘near future’ is a very fluid term in Belgian decision-making it leaves Desmedt and others wondering how both communities are going to get informed about the view points and proposals of the politicians on the other side of the language barrier. Although they can’t vote for them it would still make sense to hear from the politicians themselves why they defend this or that position. Otherwise it becomes increasingly easy to present ‘the other’ as “impossible”, “nuts” or worse without counter arguments.

Giving extra ammunition to those that consider ‘Belgium Inc.’ a failed experiment and argue to just split everything up and each go their own way. Never mind what that would mean for Brussels, it does question the credibility of those in favour of a united Belgium that they don’t show any interest for roughly the other half of the country…

To be continued.

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