Far-right and right-wing parties set for exponential growth in Flanders, new survey suggests

Far-right and right-wing parties set for exponential growth in Flanders, new survey suggests
Tom Van Grieken of the Vlaams Belang (left) walks with the leader of the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, Bart De Wever. © Belga

Green, centre and left-wing parties in Flanders are losing voters en masse to right-wing and far-right parties, which a new survey shows are set to grow exponentially as they seize larger chunks of the electorate.

A total of 2,000 Dutch-speaking voters living in Flanders were surveyed over the votes they cast on the regional and federal elections in May 2019 by consulting firm Kantar.

The survey showed a total of 300,000 voters turned away from three major Flemish parties in last year's ballot, flocking to the ranks of the far-right Vlaams Belang (VB) and the right-wing Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie.

Last year's election was also the first time that a majority of first-time voters did not vote for Groen, with young voters snubbing the green party and choosing the VB instead.

Overall, the voter exodus hit the centre-right CD&V the hardest, causing it to shed 15% of its electorate, followed by the liberal Open VLD which lost 13% of votes and by the s.pa socialists, who saw their ranks thin out by 10%.

The results point a difficult future for the three so-called traditional parties of Flanders and suggest a boasting and young electorate for parties to the right of the political spectrum, Flemish daily Knack, which obtained the survey, reports.

Far-right party surges with young electorate

The results highlighted the major wins made by far-right party Vlaams Belang (VB), which swept up enough votes to become the second-largest party in Flanders after snatching, in particular, 50,000 votes from people just entering the voting age.

A total of 276,000 voters defected from the right-wing Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) to the VB, in a harsh blow to the Flemish nationalist party which nevertheless managed to garner enough votes to stay afloat as the largest party in the region's parliament.

The survey further showed that the defection trend of N-VA voters to its far-right counterpart reached a peak in last year's ballot, after the N-VA lost 112,000 voters in 2009 and 150,000 in the 2014 elections.

Carried out between 3 and 24 June 2019, the survey also showed that the centre-right, right, and far-right electorate was the least indecisive about their votes, with over 50% of CV&V, N-VA and VB saying they made a choice on who to vote for up to a month ahead of the election.

In addition to young people, the VB also became the number one party for workers, homemakers and the unemployed, and it also managed to beef up its support among pensioners are voters with a higher education.

The far-right party's voters declared to have cast their votes over concerns for migration and asylum policies, taxes and purchasing powers, as well as a penalty to the N-VA for their performance throughout the past legislature.

Additionally, the survey shows that the VB has the largest potential for growth, with around 12% of electors who said they voted for a different party declaring they considered to vote for the VB.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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