Final preparations have been taking place for election day in Belgium ahead of a bitterly-contested vote between its French and Flemish parts. It comes amid an ongoing political crisis that’s divided the country for years.
There will be two separate elections, in Dutch-speaking Flanders and among French speakers in Wallonia. Voters in and around bi-lingual Brussels will be able to vote in either.
Opinion polls suggest that the NVA alliance including Flemish separatists who want to split the country are in the lead.
The NVA talks of creating a confederation .. rather than two separate nations. Among politicians from the wealthier Flemish region there are calls for more autonomy, but some of their supporters are more hard line, calling for full independence.
If the NVA wins the most votes, Belgium could be left struggling to form a coalition that can deliver both reform of the state and much needed debt reduction.
Belgium’s last ruling coalition collapsed as it couldn’t resolve differences between Dutch and French speaking parties.
Analysts say there is more cause for optimism that a deal on devolving powers to the regions can be reached – but months of wrangling can’t be ruled out.