New Flemish Alliance

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New Flemish Alliance

Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie
LeaderBart De Wever
FounderGeert Bourgeois
Founded2001
Split fromPeople's Union
HeadquartersKoningsstraat 47, bus 6
B-1000 Brussels
Youth wingJong N-VA
Membership (2018)Increase 45,000[1]
IdeologyHistorical:
Pro-Europeanism[9][10]
Political positionCentre-right[11] to right‑wing[12]
Historical:
Big tent[13][citation needed]
European affiliationEuropean Free Alliance
European Parliament groupEuropean Conservatives and Reformists
Colors  Black
  Gold
Chamber of Representatives
(Flemish seats)
25 / 87
Senate
(Flemish seats)
9 / 35
Flemish Parliament
35 / 124
Brussels Parliament
(Flemish seats)
3 / 17
European Parliament
(Flemish seats)
3 / 12
Flemish Provincial Councils
46 / 175
Website
www.n-va.be

The New Flemish Alliance (Dutch: Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA)[14] is a Flemish nationalist,[2] conservative[15][16][17] political party in Belgium. The party was founded in 2001 by the right-leaning faction of the centrist-nationalist People's Union (VU).[18] The N-VA is a regionalist,[19] separatist[20][21][22][23] movement that self-identifies with the promotion of civic nationalism.[24] It is part of the Flemish Movement; the party strives for the peaceful[25] and gradual secession of Flanders from Belgium.[26][third-party source needed] In recent years it has become the largest party of Flanders as well as of Belgium as a whole, and it participated in the 2014–18 Belgian Government until 9 December 2018.[27]

The N-VA was established as a centre-right party with the main objective of working towards furthering Flemish autonomy, redefining Belgium as a confederal country and eventually full independence for Flanders by gradually obtaining more powers for both Belgian communities separately.[28] During its early years, the N-VA mostly followed the former platform of the People's Union by characterising itself as a big tent or catch-all party combining policies from the left, right and centre ground with Flemish nationalism as its central theme. Furthermore, it emphasizes a pragmatic and non-revolutionary character (as opposed to the far-right character of the Vlaams Belang) in order to legitimise increased Flemish autonomy.[29][third-party source needed]

In subsequent years however, the N-VA adopted a conservative identity under the leadership of Bart De Wever, who succeeded the founding leader Geert Bourgeois. 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.[24] The N-VA advocates free-market economics, immediate tax reductions to stimulate the economy, a robust stance on law and order and controlled immigration policies.[30][7] The party previously advocated deepening ties with the European Union,[31] but have since shifted to a more "Eurorealist" or "Eurocritical" stance.[10]

Since the 2014 European elections, the New Flemish Alliance has sat with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) parliamentary group in the European Parliament.

History[edit]

Fall of the People's Union[edit]

The N-VA stems from the right-leaning faction of the People's Union (Dutch: Volksunie, VU), a Belgian political party and broad electoral alliance of Flemish nationalists from both sides of the political spectrum. 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 right-wing party base. Many of the VU's more ardent national-conservative members defected to the Vlaams Blok after becoming disgruntled with direction of the party, prompting a further decline in support.

Tension rose towards the end of the decade, as Geert Bourgeois, foreman[clarification needed] 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.[32] Since no faction got an absolute majority, however, the name Volksunie could no longer be used and the VU was dissolved. The centre-right orientated faction of the VU went on the found the N-VA while the remaining centre-left faction reorganized itself as Spirit.

Foundation and the election threshold[edit]

In the autumn of 2001, the New Flemish Alliance (Dutch: Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie, N-VA) was officially registered. 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 N-VA initially continued some of the VU's former policies.

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.

In December 2018, a political crisis emerged over whether to sign the Global Compact for Migration; N-VA was against this, whereas the other three parties in the federal government supported it. On 4 December 2018, the Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, announced that the issue would be taken to parliament for a vote.[33] On 5 December, parliament voted 106 to 36 in favor of backing the agreement.[34] Michel stated that he would endorse the pact on behalf of parliament, not on behalf of the divided government.[35] Consequently, N-VA quit the federal government; the other three parties continue as a minority government (Michel II).

During the 2019 federal elections the party again polled in first place in the Flemish region but saw a decline in vote share for the first time, falling to 25.6% of the Flemish vote.

Foundation and ideology[edit]

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 setting. Party leader De Wever calls himself a conservative and a nationalist.[36] The N-VA has previously argued for a Flemish Republic as a member state of a democratic European confederation. In its initial mission statement, the party stated that the challenges of the 21st century can best be answered by strong communities and by well-developed international co-operation, a position which reflected in their tagline: "Necessary in Flanders, useful in Europe." (Dutch: Nodig in Vlaanderen, nuttig in Europa.)

During the N-VA's early years a label for the political orientation for the party was difficult to find. Continuing from its People's Union predecessor, the N-VA was initially considered a big tent or catch-all party and a progressive nationalist movement that combined socially liberal, left- and right-wing policies. In its 2009 election programme for Flanders, the N-VA described itself as economically liberal and ecologically green. The party supported public transport, open source software, renewable energy and taxing cars by the number of kilometres driven. It wanted more aid for developing countries and more compulsory measures to require that immigrants learn Dutch.[citation needed]

The party has generally been supportive of LGBT rights by backing same-sex marriage and relaxing laws for gay couples to adopt. It calls for measures to protect weaker members of society but also robust welfare reform to encourage people into work and reduce unemployment.[37][7] The N-VA also supports abolishing the Belgian Senate.[38]

In recent years, the N-VA has shifted from a big tent movement to a conservative party by basing some of its socio-economic policies on that of the British Conservative Party.[39] Academic and writer Glen Duerr has described the N-VA's position as evolving to somewhere between that of Vlaams Belang and CD&V.[40]

Since 2014, the N-VA has been described as continuing to move ideologically further to the right under the influence of Bart De Wever and Theo Francken by adopting tougher stances on immigration, integration of minorities, family unification, requirements to obtain Belgian citizenship, law and order and repatriation of foreign born criminals.[41][9] In 2015, German weekly Die Zeit published a list of 39 successful radical political parties in Europe. The paper described N-VA as right-wing populist and separatist because it reduces complex political problems to territorial issues.[42] N-VA responded that "foreign media find the party difficult to place, so they just label us as extremists." In 2018, the party opposed the Global Compact for Migration and subsequently withdrew its participation in the Belgian government in protest of its passing.[33] Some commentators have attributed these shifts as a response to a revival in support for the Flemish nationalist Vlaams Belang, which also campaigned against the Migration Compact.[43] In contrast to other Belgian parties, the N-VA is more critical of the cordon sanitaire placed on Vlaams Belang and recently has been more open to negotiating with the party (although accepting former Vlaams Blok/Vlaams Belang members as defectors into the N-VA still remains controversial within some ranks of the party).[44][45]

In terms of foreign policy the N-VA's stance on the European Union began as strongly pro-European in character (which it regarded as an important means of gaining legitimacy for Flemish nationalism and autonomy on an international stage) and in 2010 the party called for "an ever stronger and more united Europe." However, the party has since evolved to a position of soft Euroscepticism and a more critical stance on European integration by no longer endorsing a vision for a European confederation, calling for more democratic reform of the EU and stating that economically unstable nations should leave the Eurozone.[9][10][39] The party is critical of the EU's stance on illegal immigration (in particular its handling of the migrant crisis) and the role played by NGOs in picking up migrants. The N-VA argues that the EU should emulate the Australian system of border protection to reinforce its external border and work with nations outside of Europe to stem the flow of illegal migrants arriving by sea.[46]

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 announced it was moving to a new group and chose the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)[47] over the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.[39]

Party chairmen[edit]

Name Portrait From To
1 Geert Bourgeois Geert Bourgeois.jpg 2001 2004
2 Bart De Wever BartDeWever.jpg 2004 present

Electorate[edit]

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.

In the 2019 federal elections the party remained in first place in the Chamber of Representatives, European Parliament and Flemish Parliament, but saw a slight decline in vote share for the first time, obtaining 16.03% of the votes in the Federal Parliament. This was in part due to a sudden upsurge in support for the Flemish Interest.

The six biggest Flemish political parties and their results for the House of Representatives (Kamer). From 1978 to 2014, in percentages of the total vote in Belgium.

Electoral results[edit]

Federal Parliament (Federaal Parlement)[edit]

Chamber of Representatives (Kamer van Volksvertegenwoordigers)
Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
% of language
group vote
No. of
overall seats won
No. of language
group seats won
+/– Government
2003 201,399 3.1%
1 / 150
1 / 88
in opposition
2007 1,234,950 18.5% 29.6% (1st)
5 / 150
5 / 88
Increase 4 in opposition
In cartel with CD&V; 30 seats won by CD&V/N-VA.
2010 1,135,617 17.40% 27.8% (1st)
27 / 150
27 / 88
Increase 22 in opposition
2014 1,366,073 20.32% 32.5% (1st)
33 / 150
33 / 87
Increase 6 in coalition (2014-2018)
in opposition (since 2018)
2019 1,086,787 16.03% 25.6% (1st)
25 / 150
25 / 87
Decrease 8 in opposition
Senate (Senaat)
Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
% of language
group vote
No. of
overall seats won
No. of language
group seats won
+/–
2003 200,273 3.1%
0 / 71
0 / 41
2007 1,287,389 19.4% 31.4% (1st)
2 / 71
2 / 41
Increase 2
In cartel with CD&V; 14 seats won by CD&V/N-VA.
2010 1,268,780 19.6% 31.7% (1st)
14 / 71
14 / 41
Increase 12
2014 N/A N/A N/A (1st)
12 / 60
12 / 35
Decrease 2
2019 N/A N/A N/A (1st)
9 / 60
9 / 35
Decrease 3

Regional parliaments[edit]

Brussels Parliament[edit]

Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
% of language
group vote
No. of
overall seats won
No. of language
group seats won
+/– Government
2004 10,482 N/A 16.8% (4th)
0 / 89
0 / 17
in opposition
In cartel with CD&V; 3 seats won by CD&V/N-VA
2009 2,586 N/A 5.0% (6th)
1 / 89
1 / 17
Increase 1 in opposition
2014 9,085 N/A 17.0% (4th)
3 / 89
3 / 17
Increase 2 in opposition
2019 9.177 N/A 18.0% (4th)
3 / 89
3 / 17
Steady 0 in opposition

Flemish Parliament[edit]

Election year No. of
overall votes
% of
overall vote
No. of
overall seats won
+/– Government
2004 1,060,580 26.1 (1st)
6 / 124
in coalition
In cartel with CD&V; 35 seats won by CD&V/N-VA.
2009 537,040 13.1 (5th)
16 / 124
Increase 10 in coalition
2014 1,339,946 31.88% (1st)
43 / 124
Increase 27 in coalition
2019 1,052,252 24.8% (1st)
35 / 124
Decrease 8 in coalition

European Parliament[edit]

Election year No. of
Belgian votes
% of
Belgian vote
% of language
group vote
No. of
Belgian seats won
No. of language
group seats won
+/–
2004 1,131,119 17.4% 28.2% (1st)
1 / 24
1 / 14
In cartel with CD&V; 4 seats won by CD&V/N-VA
2009 402,545 6.13% 9.88% (#5)
1 / 22
1 / 13
Steady 0
2014 1,123,363 16.85% 26.67% (1st)
4 / 21
4 / 12
Increase 3
2019 1,123,355 14.17% 22.44% (1st)
3 / 21
3 / 12
Decrease 1

Representation[edit]

European politics[edit]

N-VA holds three seats in the ninth European Parliament (2019–2024) for the Dutch-speaking electoral college.

European Parliament
Name In office Parliamentary group
Geert Bourgeois 2019–present European Conservatives and Reformists
Assita Kanko 2019–present
Johan Van Overtveldt 2019–present

Federal politics[edit]

Chamber of Representatives (2019–2024)
Constituency Name Notes
Antwerp Wim Van der Donckt Replaces Jan Jambon, who became Flemish Minister-President
Valerie Van Peel
Peter De Roover floor leader
Michael Freilich
Sophie De Wit
Koen Metsu
Yoleen Van Camp
Bert Wollants
East-Flanders Anneleen Van Bossuyt
Peter Buysrogge
Tomas Roggeman
Christoph D'Haese
Kathleen Depoorter
West-Flanders Sander Loones
Yngvild Ingels
Björn Anseeuw
Flemish Brabant Theo Francken
Darya Safai
Jan Spooren
Kristien Van Vaerenbergh
Katrien Houtmeyers
Limburg (Belgium) Joy Donné replaces Zuhal Demir, who became Minister in the Flemish government)
Frieda Gijbels
Wouter Raskin
Senate (2019–2024)
Type Name
Community senator Andries Gryffroy
Community senator Freya Perdaens
Community senator Maaike De Vreese
Community senator Karolien Grosemans
Community senator Nadia Sminate
Community senator Karl Vanlouwe
Community senator Allessia Claes
Community senator Philippe Muyters
Co-opted senator Mark Demesmaeker

Regional politics[edit]

Flemish Government[edit]

Flemish Government Jambon (incumbent)
Name Function
Jan Jambon Minister-President of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister for Culture, Foreign Policy and Development Cooperation
Ben Weyts Vice minister-president of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister for Education, Animal Welfare, Brussels Periphery and Sport
Zuhal Demir Flemish Minister for Justice, Planning, Environment, Energy, and Tourism
Matthias Diependaele Flemish Minister for Finance, Budget, Housing and Immovable Heritage
Former Flemish Ministers[edit]

Flemish Parliament[edit]

Flemish Parliament (2019–2024)
Constituency Name Notes
Antwerp Bart De Wever
Liesbeth Homans Speaker of Parliament
Annick De Ridder
Kris Van Dijck
Philippe Muyters
Sofie Joosen
Kathleen Krekels
Paul Van Miert
Freya Perdaens
Manuela Van Werde
Maarten De Veuster
Tine van der Vloet
East-flanders Joris Nachtergaele Replaces Matthias Diependaele, who became Minister
Sarah Smeyers
Koen Daniëls
Elke Sleurs
Marius Meremans
Andries Gryffroy
Flemish Brabant Arnout Coel Replaces Ben Weyts, who became Minister
Nadia Sminate
Lorin Parys
Piet De Bruyn
Inez De Coninck
Allessia Claes
West-Flanders Bert Maertens
Maaike De Vreese
Axel Ronse
Cathy Coudyser
Wilfried Vandaele Floor Leader
Limburg (Belgium) Steven Vandeput
Katja Verheyen Replaces Jan Peumans
Karolien Grosemans
Jos Lantmeeters
Brussels-Capital Region Karl Vanlouwe
Annabel Tavernier

Parliament of the Brussels-Capital Region[edit]

Brussels Regional Parliament (2019–2024)
Name Notes
Cieltje Van Achter
Matthias Vanden Borre
Gilles Verstraeten

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External links[edit]

Media related to Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie at Wikimedia Commons