Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD). Before the party split the Party for Freedom and Progress, as the Belgian Liberals were known, was the representative of Belgium’s secular middle classes, generally sitting to the right of the Christian Democrats on economics, but more progressive on social policy.
The party took its current name in 1992 in what essentially amounted to a re-launch of the party under rising star Guy Verhofstadt. The VLD was initially a very economically right-of-centre party, but the party came under the increasing influence of Verhofstadt’s political philosopher brother, Dirk, who expounded a much more moderate version of liberalism.
From 1999 until 2008 Verhofstadt was Prime Minister in coalition with the socialist parties and, for a time, with the green parties.
The party is currently in government at the federal level, but in opposition in Flanders.
Since 2009 Guy Verhofstadt has been a MEP, and leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament. An outspoken federalist Verhofstadt’s books include ‘The United States of Europe’ and ‘For Europe’ (co-authored with the French Green leader, Daniel Cohn-Bendit). Verhofstadt is ALDE’s candidate for the Presidency of the Commission this year. He was considered to be a frontrunner for the Presidency in 2004 but was vetoed by the British on the basis that he was too anti-American.