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Belgian king asks Flemish party leader to look for coalition partners

FILE - The leader of the NVA (New Flemish Alliance) Bart De Wever, May 2014
FILE - The leader of the NVA (New Flemish Alliance) Bart De Wever, May 2014 Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Daniel Bellamy
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Bart De Wever, the president of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance, has been chosen to sound out which parties could form a coalition government.

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Belgium's king appointed Bart De Wever, the president of the Flemish-nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), to explore coalition possibilities.

In a surprise result, De Wever's N-VA beat the far-right Vlaams Belang party in the EU elections last week, which means it remains Belgium's biggest political party.

King Philippe met with De Wever on Wednesday afternoon who instructed him to "identify parties wishing to quickly form a stable coalition at the federal level."

He will report back to the king in a week's time, on June 19th.

Flemish nationalist parties dominated the elections as Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s liberal party took a hit.

Despite polls predicting that the far-right, anti-immigration Vlaams Belang party would become the main political force in the country with a population of 11.5 million, the N-VA retained its top spot, with an expected 22% of the votes, according to provisional results provided by the Interior Ministry.

The Vlaams Belang came in second position, with a share of 17.5%, ahead of the Socialist Voruit party, which gained about 10.5% of the votes.

De Croo’s party managed less than 7% of the votes, lagging well behind the far-left, and he resigned soon after the results came in.

The negotiations will be complicated as the country divided by language and deep regional identities. Belgium is split along linguistic lines, with francophone Wallonia in the south and Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, and governments are invariably formed by coalitions made of parties from both regions.

Vlaams Belang has so far been blocked from entering governments as mainstream parties vowed to exclude it from power under a “cordon sanitaire” doctrine referring to the protective barrier put in place to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

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