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Belgium - Elections 2014

In voting on 25 May 2014, the opposition N-VA (New Flemish Alliance) secured a third of the votes from the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders, where some 60 percent of Belgians live. The center-right party, which captured 28.2 percent of the Dutch-speaking vote in 2010, proposed transforming Belgium into a loose confederation of linguistically distinct regions, giving more power to regional governments. The socialists of Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, lost voters to a new hard left party, though they remained the largest force in the French-speaking south of Belgium. The far right, anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest) was the night's biggest loser.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo tendered his government's resignation on 26 May 2014. It continued as a caretaker until a new administration was formed. Di Rupo's Socialists finished on 30 percent, behind Flemish separatist party N-VA, who won 32 percent of the national vote, making them the largest party.

Belgium's primary center-right parties reached an agreement 07 October 2014 to form a coalition government, ending a five-month period since parliamentary elections without a national government. The agreement made French-speaking pro-business liberal Charles Michel prime minister. At 38 years old, he became one of Europe's youngest leaders, and Belgium's youngest prime minister in almost two centuries. Michel heads Belgium's largest center-right pro-business party, the Reformist Movement (MR). The governing coalition was the first without Socialists in 26 years. It also includes the Flemish nationalist party New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), which advocates the secession of Belgium's Dutch-speaking north. Flanders' Christian Democrats (CD-V), and the Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) made up the rest of the coalition.

Critics at home and abroad had taken to referring to Belgium as a "failed state." It's a charge that Prime Minister Charles Michel strongly denied in the weeks after the 22 March 2016 terrorist attacks, all the while acknowledging that "we have a lot of work to do." The Belgian capital was hit by multiple bombings that left at least 31 people dead and dozens injured. Since March, the sight of military patrols on the streets of the Belgian capital and travel chaos caused by the month-long closure of the airport and public transportation restrictions have led many tourists to avoid Brussels.

Prime Minister Charles Michel lamented the "political games" being played at such a difficult time. "I regret these polemics and will do everything to try to avoid them," Michel said. While Walloon Charles Michel headed the government, his coalition is chock full of powerful Flemish parties. The prime minister was unlikely to go any further than a public reproach. Despite holding the top job in government, as leader of the coalition's only francophone party his political base is smaller than that of either of the feuding factions; his practical power is therefore limited.

Belgium resolved an internal deadlock over the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between the European Union and Canada 26 October 2016. All 28 members of the EU must accept the deal. Although Belgium's federal government agrees to it, certain regions of Belgium do not - and the country requires their approval. As it stands, only the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders had given the green light to CETA. Lawmakers in Wallonia say they are concerned the agreement could hurt local farming. It is backed by labor and green groups that worry the trade deal could undercut national laws that protect the environment and worker rights.

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