Belgian Greens of Ecolo and Groen enjoy a good day in local elections
The Belgian Greens of Ecolo and Groen are celebrating in the wake of local elections that has seen them increase their representation.
The elections, the first in six years for Belgium's powerful and significant local governments across all three regions (French speaking Wallonia, Dutch speaking Flanders and bi-lingual Brussels) were fiercely contested, with canvassing and campaigning having gone on for months. At stake was government representation in five provinces and 308 municipalities in Flanders, five provinces and 262 municipalities in Wallonia and the 19 municipalities of the Brussels Region.
The francophone Greens of Ecolo came from a good position, having succeeded in the 2006 election, to reaffirm their position as Wallonia's third party. In the regional capital of Namur, they stayed in the governing coalition, despite a slight drop in their vote. There were some stunning results for the party - in the town of Amay they increased their vote by over 10 points to 54.4% and an overall majority for mayor Jean-Michel Javaux. In Brussels, Ecolo co-leader Olivier Deleuze obtained the mayorality of Watermael-Boitsfort, the Greens's first ever mayorality in the capital. Overall, the situation in Wallonia was one of stability.
In Flanders, the Greens increased their vote across the province, securing seats in the new councils, despite the meteoric rise of the pro-Flemish autonomy party, the N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) who stormed ahead in almost all municipalities and provincial councils. Their rise severely affected the three other big parties of the Socialists (SP.a), the Christian Democrats (CD&V) and most noticeably the Liberals (Open-VLD). This makes the Groen's achievement even greater.
In Ghent, the party participated in a joint list with the Socialists and succeeded in getting over half the seats. They increased their representation and could be in government in Ostende, Brugge, and even Antwerp, where N-VA leader Bart de Wever ended decades of socialist dominance to win the mayorality, possibly with the support of the Greens. Groen have increased their seat total from 226 to 307, and are now represented in 158 cities and towns, an increase of 15 locations. Overall the Greens are the 'second winner' in Flanders, establishing themselves over the Liberals in many areas and building an excellent base for further growth in the future.
One other positive outcome of the elections was the decimation of the extremist and populist right wing in Belgium. In Flanders, despite their efforts at presenting a more moderate platform, the Vlaams Belang were utterly decimated by the rise of the N-VA, losing all represention in hundreds of municipalities and a huge share of the vote across the region.
In Antwerp, for 20 years a cradle of radical right and anti-immigrant politics, the party lost over 23% of the vote and 15 seats. In Wallonia, the already weakened Front National is effectively ended as a party, having not even contested most of the races. These developments were welcomed by both of the Green parties, who have campaigned heavily against the far right's agenda. The emergence of the far left with the PvdA poses new challenges, however.
Some negotiations about coalitions will continue this week, so we might be hearing more about Greens entering local government in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels as it progresses. But for now both parties can be proud of their achievement.
Coverage of Groen's success in Flanders, and Antwerp.
Full results from Wallonia
Full results from Flanders
Full results from Brussels