New Flemish Alliance

New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).  The New-Flemish Alliance is seemingly Flanders newly dominant party.

Created in 2001 from the centre-right faction of the former People’s Union, a broad-based Flemish nationalist party, the N-VA has had a rapid rise to success in Flanders. Only barely winning a single seat in the 2003 federal election the N-VA formed an alliance with the CD&V until 2008. After that point the N-VA went it alone once again. The last European elections (held on the same date as the last regional election) were its first outing as a lone party since 2003. A decent result gave it momentum for the 2010 general where it became the largest party in Belgium, taking votes from every Flemish party, apart from Groen, and beating the French-speaking Socialists by a single seat. After long coalition negotiations the N-VA decided not to enter into government, the gap between separatist, conservative, Flemish N-VA and  the more unionist French-speaking Socialists was simply too large. The party has continued to poll strongly since 2010 and also saw significant success in local elections in 2012.

The N-VA is a separatist party, with a goal of an independent Flemish Republic. However their approach to separation is gradualist, preferring to devolve power down from the Belgian state until Flanders is de facto independent and then separating. They are also a broadly liberal-conservative party, with an ideology broadly comparable to David Cameron’s. While the party supports free-markets and low taxes it also has strong green credentials and supports higher foreign aid.

The party is also very pro-EU, and their tagline is ‘Necessary in Flanders, useful in Europe’. The party envisions a ‘democratic European confederation’ with Flanders as part of it.

The party’s support comes from across the Flemish spectrum and polls in 2010 found that a majority of its supporters were actually opposed to Flemish independence. Its support primarily comes from a combination of its conservatism, a soft-Flemish nationalist appeal, a certain anti-establishment edge and the popular personality of its leader Bart de Wever.

The N-VA is a member of the Flemish government, where it is the smallest coalition partner, but is in opposition federally. N-VA probably stands a good chance of topping the ballot in the Euros, and indeed in the federal elections too.

The N-VA is a member of the European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA group), the grouping for regionalist and nationalist parties. Whilst this is obviously logical the EFA is a rather poor fit for the N-VA as it is allied to the European Green Party and most of its members are centre-left. Indeed, membership in the EFA puts the N-VA in the same group as Groen, the Flemish party which is perhaps most ideologically opposite to it. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that the N-VA MEP is the most disloyal member of the Greens/EFA group, voting alongside her allies only 70.8% of the time.

Therefore it is likely that the N-VA may switch group in the next parliament. The party’s most natural fit is the European People’s Party, but there are already three Belgian parties in that group and the CD&V might not take kindly to the competition. The party reportedly held talks with David Cameron about moving to the European Conservatives and Reformists in 2011. While the party is ideologically similar to the Conservatives, it is perhaps too federalist for the ECR, however.