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New Flemish Alliance

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Leader  Bart De Wever
Founded  2001
Founder  Geert Bourgeois
Membership  (2014)  41,176
New Flemish Alliance

Preceded by  People's Union (split in 2001)
Headquarters  Koningsstraat 47, bus 6 B-1000 Brussels Belgium

The New Flemish Alliance (Dutch: Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA) is a Flemish nationalist and conservative political party in Belgium, founded in 2001. The N-VA is a regionalist and separatist movement that self-identifies with the promotion of civic nationalism. It is part of the Flemish Movement, and strives for the peaceful and gradual secession of Flanders from Belgium. In recent years it has become the largest party of Flanders as well as of Belgium as a whole, and leads the 2014–19 Flemish Government.

Contents

Following the 2014 elections, the New Flemish Alliance is the largest Belgian/Flemish political party in the European Parliament, with its four MEPs sitting with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) parliamentary group.

The party is also known for its insistence on the exclusive use of Dutch, Flanders' sole official language, in dealings with government agencies, and for the promotion of the use of Dutch in Flanders as the language enabling integration. The main objective of the party is to work on Flemish independence by gradually obtaining more powers for both Belgian communities separately. Furthermore, it emphasizes its non-revolutionary and pro-European character (as opposed to the far-right and Eurosceptic character of the Vlaams Belang) in order to legitimize increased Flemish autonomy. The N-VA advocates free-market economics, and their manifesto proposes immediate tax reductions to stimulate the economy. They also advocate deepening ties with the European Union.

Fall of the People's Union

The N-VA stems from the People's Union (Dutch: Volksunie, VU), a Belgian political party and broad electoral alliance of Flemish nationalists. Towards the end of the 20th century, with a steadily declining electorate and the majority of the party's federalist agenda implemented, friction between several wings of the People's Union emerged. In the beginning of the 1990s, Bert Anciaux became party president and led the party in an ever more progressive direction, combining the social-liberal ideas of his new iD21-movement with the regionalist course of the People's Union. These experiments were opposed by the more traditional centre-right party base.

Tension rose towards the end of the decade, as Geert Bourgeois, foreman of the traditional and centre-right nationalist wing, was elected chairman by party members, in preference to the incumbent and progressive Patrik Vankrunkelsven. Factions subsequently clashed multiple times, over the future course of the party and possible support for current state reform negotiations. On 13 October 2001 the party openly split into three factions: the progressive wing around Bert Anciaux, which would later become the Spirit party; the conservative nationalist wing around Geert Bourgeois; and a centrist group opposing the imminent split. A party referendum was held on the future of the party. The right wing gained a substantial plurality of 47% and inherited the party infrastructure. Since no faction got an absolute majority, however, the name Volksunie could no longer be used.

Foundation and the election threshold

In the autumn of 2001, the New Flemish Alliance (Dutch: Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA) was founded. Seven members of parliament from the People's Union joined the new party. The new party council created a party manifesto and a statement of principles. The first party congress was held in May 2002, voting on a party program and permanent party structures. Geert Bourgeois was elected chairman.

The party participated in elections for the first time in the 2003 federal elections, but struggled with the election threshold of 5%. This threshold was only reached in West Flanders, the constituency of Geert Bourgeois. With only one federal representative and no senator, the party lost government funding and faced irrelevance.

Cartel with CD&V

In February 2004, the N-VA entered into an electoral alliance, commonly known in Belgium as a cartel, with the Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) party, the traditionally largest party, which was then in opposition. They joined forces in the regional elections in 2004 and won. Both parties joined the new Flemish government, led by CD&V leader Yves Leterme. Geert Bourgeois became a minister, and Bart De Wever became the new party leader in October 2004.

The cartel was briefly broken when the former right-wing liberal Jean-Marie Dedecker left the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Open VLD) and entered the N-VA on behalf of the party executive. However, the party congress did not put Dedecker on the election list, instead preferring to continue the cartel with CD&V, who had strongly opposed placing him on a joint cartel list. Dedecker saw this as a vote of no confidence, and left the party after only 10 days, to form his own party, List Dedecker (LDD). Deputy leader Brepoels, who supported Dedecker, stepped down from the party board afterwards.

In the Belgian federal election of 2007 the CD&V/N-VA cartel won a major victory again, with a campaign focusing on good governance, state reform and the division of the electoral district Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde. The N-VA won five seats in the Chamber of Representatives and two seats in the Senate. Yves Leterme initiated coalition talks, which repeatedly stalled (see 2007–2008 Belgian government formation). On 20 March 2008, a new federal government was finally assembled. N-VA did not join this government, but gave its support pending state reform.

The cartel ended definitively on 24 September 2008, due to lack of progression in state reform matters and a different strategy on future negotiations. N-VA left the Flemish Government and gave up its support of Leterme at the federal level.

Mainstream party

In the regional elections of June 2009, N-VA won an unexpected 13% of the votes, making them the winner of the elections, along with their old cartel partner CD&V. N-VA subsequently joined the government, led by Kris Peeters (CD&V). Bart De Wever chose to remain party leader and appointed Geert Bourgeois and Philippe Muyters as ministers in the Flemish Government and Jan Peumans as speaker of the Flemish Parliament.

Foundation and ideology

The New Flemish Alliance is a relatively young political party, founded in the autumn of 2001. Being one of the successors of the Volksunie (1954–2001), it is, however, based on an established political tradition. The N-VA works towards the same goal as its predecessor: to redefine Flemish nationalism in a contemporary, pro-European setting. Party leader De Wever calls himself a conservative and a nationalist.

The N-VA argues for a Flemish republic, a member state of a democratic European confederation. The party believes that the challenges of the 21st century can best be answered by strong communities and by well-developed international co-operation, a position which is reflected in their tagline: "Necessary in Flanders, useful in Europe." (Dutch: Nodig in Vlaanderen, nuttig in Europa.)

A label for the political orientation of the N-VA is difficult to find as the party combines both left- and right-wing policies. According to its 2009 election programme for Flanders, the N-VA is economically liberal and ecologically green. The N-VA supports public transport, open source software, renewable energy and taxing cars by the number of kilometres driven. It wants more aid for developing countries but also more compulsory measures to require that immigrants learn Dutch.

At European level, the N-VA is part of the European Free Alliance (EFA), a European political party consisting of regionalist, pro-independence and minority interest political parties, of which the People's Union was a founder member. During the 7th European Parliament of 2009–2014, the N-VA was a member of The Greens–European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA) group in the European Parliament. However, following the 2014 European elections, the N-VA moved to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.

Electorate

In the federal elections in 2003 N-VA received 3.1% of the votes, but won only one seat in the federal parliament. In February 2004 they formed an electoral alliance (cartel) with the Christian Democratic and Flemish party (CD&V). The cartel won the elections for the Flemish Parliament. The N-VA received a total of 6 seats. However, on 21 September 2008 the N-VA lost its faith in the federal government and the following day minister Geert Bourgeois resigned. In a press conference he confirmed the end of the CD&V/N-VA cartel.

In the 2004 European elections, N-VA had 1 MEP elected as part of the cartel with CD&V.

In the 10 June 2007 federal elections, the cartel won 30 out of 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives and 9 out of 40 seats in the Senate.

In the regional elections of 11 June 2009, N-VA (now on its own after the split of the cartel with CD&V) won an unexpected 13% of the votes, making them the winner of the elections along with their former cartel partner. In the 2009 European elections held on the same day, the N-VA had one MEP elected.

In the 2010 federal elections, N-VA became the largest party of Flanders and of Belgium altogether.

In the 2014 federal elections, N-VA increased their dominant position, taking votes and seats from the far-right Flemish Interest. In the simultaneous 2014 regional elections and 2014 European elections, the N-VA also became the largest party in the Flemish Parliament and in the Belgian delegation to the European Parliament.

European Politics

N-VA holds four seats in the eighth European Parliament (2014–2019) for the Dutch-speaking electoral college.

References

New Flemish Alliance Wikipedia