A tale of two general elections

This weekend, two European countries held general elections, but you may not have known this because the media around the world tends to focus on national events to the neglect of other countries unless there is violence or conflict.

The first election was in Slovakia and you can read about the result here.

The second election was in Belgium and you can read about the result here.

OK, so what’s the connection, besides the timing and that, in both cases, the result means the creation of a new coalition government? For me, the connection is that Slovakia used to be part of a country Czechoslovakia that broke into two – the Czech Republic and Slovakia – in a so-called ‘velvet divorce’, while the success of the the separatists of the New Flemish Alliance (NVA) in Belgium raises more sharply than ever before the danger that this country too will split into two – Flanders and Wallonia.

In the case of Czechoslovakia, the country split in two in 1993 without any referendum and with opinion polls suggesting that a majority in both parts of the country opposed the break-up. The problem was that the leaders of the main political parties in the two parts of the country wanted separation and got it. Do the majority of Belgians want actual separation?


  • A Belgian view

    They don’t want separation, just want a fairer system, where we do not support the other side both financially and politically (due to the constitutional law).

  • A regular visitor to the Flemish part of Belgium

    As an outsider to Belgian culture, my experience of spending time in Flanders is that there is a distinct tension between Flanders and Wallonia. The Flemish that I have met appear to feel that the Walloons drain their financial resources without contributing equally to the economy.

    The split in language and culture further deepens this sense of separation and difference. Brussels – which is located in Flanders but where French is the dominant language – is, like Jerusalem, claimed by both sides.

    While I hear the Flemish talk of separation, recently I have also heard them say that if they were to split, they would be too small to maintain their European and global position.


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