The Belgian king held talks with the Flemish extreme right for the first time since 1936 yesterday, as Belgium struggled to digest elections that exposed deep linguistic and regional divisions that threaten to tear the country apart.
Belgium’s three federal regions, French-speaking Wallonia, Dutch-speaking Flanders and officially bilingual but largely francophone Brussels, were left polarised by the results of elections held on Sunday.
The entrenched divisions are so deep that they have earned comparisons with Brexit Britain and been dubbed “Vlexit”, a pun on Vlaanderen, the Dutch name for Flanders.
Belgium held the record for the longest period of time without an elected government of 589 days, which was surpassed by Northern Ireland last year. There are fears the record could return to Belgium as it appears almost impossible to build a coalition.
Flanders, which is more populous and richer than the rest of Belgium, voted in huge numbers for the two right wing parties calling for Flemish independence, the N-VA and the far right Vlaams Belang.
Wallonia, which is poorer and more rural, backed left wing socialists, as did Brussels, which also voted for the green party. Those results makes building a coalition to take power difficult, especially because Vlaams Belang, now the third largest party in the whole of Belgium on the back of their Flemish results, are so toxic.