Linkse Socialistiche Partij(LSP)/Mouvement pour une Alternative Socialiste(MAS), the Belgian affiliate of the CWI, for the first time ever stood nationally in elections and won at least 19,841 votes.
cwi election campaigns 2004: Belgium
20,000 votes for socialism
On Sunday, Belgium voted for both the European elections and the regional parliaments in Flanders, French speaking Walloon, and Brussels areas. We ran a Dutch speaking LSP list and a French speaking MAS list for the European parliament and a list standing for the Flemish regional parliament in the East Flanders constituency. In our campaign we made a difference with the traditional parties by having a political campaign instead of a campaign based on popular faces saying nothing.
The election results (the French speaking results are not complete yet) show that there have been important changes in Belgium, although both areas of the country have a very different result.
In the Dutch speaking area the Christian democratic opposition gained a little going up to 28.12% (+ 2.77%), the Greens doubled their terrible vote of in last year’s national elections getting 7.99% (+4,.4%) and the Vlaams Blok made a new breakthrough going over 20%, getting 23.17% (+4.96% since May 2003). All government parties lost: the right wing Liberal VLD lost 4.06% and has 21.9%, the Social Democrats even lost 7.02% compared to last year and now have 17.85%.
This makes it impossible to have a coalition government of just two parties, opening a possibility of a new Green participation in the regional government, even though taking part in the national government led to their terrible result in 2003 when they were voted out of the national parliament. The Greens had a campaign based on the need to keep a ‘progressive’ voice in parliament, and many who voted Social Democrat last year now turned out to vote Green. Even some of our voters decided to have a ‘tactical’ vote in the regional election to ensure that the Greens remained in the parliament, while voting for us in the Euro election.
The main lesson of the result is the enormous volatility of the electoral results. The parties in government are voted away time and time again. In 1999 the Christian Democrats suffered a defeat and had to leave the government, in 2003 the Greens were swept away. Now the Social Democrats and the Liberals lost a lot. In the meantime the Vlaams Blok continues to grow, now at 23%! In Antwerp the Vlaams Blok got 34%. It is clear that as long as they are seen as an opposition party, there is potential for further growth.
This will only be stopped if through resistance against the anti-working class policies of the government, a new political force can grow. Political representation for the worker class is needed more than ever; the election result now shows the huge potential for this. While the Vlaams Blok is now the second biggest party in Flanders, they are hardly able to mobilise and take more and more openly neo-liberal positions.
The LSP achieved important progress in the election. In last year’s national elections we got 8,300 votes standing in the whole Dutch-speaking area for the first time. We have now increased this vote to 14,166. This represents 0.35%, still not that much but a significant step forward. We increased our membership and active support in the campaign. This can be seen in the electoral result. In Antwerp we got over a 1,000 votes, up from 450 last year. These results follow a successful campaign to demonstrate against the Vlaams Blok earlier this year when 800 anti-fascists took to the streets. In the campaign for the elections we recruited 10 new party members in Antwerp. In Limburg we started to build a basis for our party. Our result there now went up from 0.14% to 0.34%. Similar results were noted in Western Flanders and Vlaams Brabant. In East Flanders the Greens were, this time, an important competition for us, leading to a more limited advance.
French speaking area
In the French speaking area there was a completely different result. The Social Democracy (Parti Socialiste) won the elections and got 35.86%. The Liberals lost 5%, getting 27.5%. The Christian Democrats won a little, but are still only at 15.10%. The Greens got 10% (up 2%), the neo-fascist FN got 7.30% (up 1.30%) and their split off, the FNB, got 1%. In the French speaking area the Parti Socialiste presented itself as the ’lesser evil’ which made a certain impact.
The different results will make it difficult for the regional parliaments. Normally the regional governments are composed of the same coalition in all areas, but this now becomes extremely difficult. This could lead to a crisis of the national government, as Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt actively participated in the European elections getting a terrible result.
In the French speaking area MAS stood for the first time. Not all results are in yet, but we get 0.28%, at least 5,675 votes, which is not bad for a party standing for the first time ever. It was only in 1995 that we started to build our French speaking organisation. Today we have French speaking branches in Brussels, Liège, Mons, Verviers, Tubize and possibilities to build elsewhere (for example Charleroi).
LSP/MAS: important step forward
This election campaign was an important step forward for our party, starting to build a force which isn’t yet seen as a group with large scale sympathetic support, but as a political force that can put ideas on the agenda. Our result might be modest, but 20,000 votes for a growing socialist force shows the potential for our organisation to build a party which will be decisive to finish with the neo-liberal anti working-class policies and the capitalist system defended by all traditional parties!