A French-speaking Belgium further to the right, between an MR on the entire right and Ecolo furthest to the left

A French-speaking Belgium further to the right, between an MR on the entire right and Ecolo furthest to the left
A French-speaking Belgium further to the right, between an MR on the entire right and Ecolo furthest to the left

The positions of the parties are evolving, confirming the lessons learned from the electoral test of RTBF and La Libre. To the point of widening fault lines within the political groups themselves. On the French-speaking side, PS and Engagés slide to their right.

Political parties evolve. The MR is moving further to the right, Ecolo has become the “most left” party, while the PS is economically more centrist, the Engagés center-right and DéFi center-left. These intuitive findings are confirmed by a study carried out by the University of Antwerp and UCLouvain based on the results of the RTBF and Libre electoral test. And truth be told, the findings are spectacular.

The very right-wing MR

“In the MR we are witnessing a fairly spectacular shift to the right on the economic dimension”, comment Stefaan Walgrave, Jonas Lefevere (Universiteit Antwerpen) and Benoît Rihoux (UCLouvain), interviewed by RTBF. Between 2019 and 2024, the MR moves 2.7 points to the right on the economic axis. “This is the biggest change that we observe in all parties between 2019 and 2024,” they specify.

The Bouchez line is undoubtedly at the origin of this shift. The young Mons leader has developed a “popular right” approach aimed at capturing an electorate likely to be tempted by the extremes. During these last campaign interviews, whether on the need to reduce social benefits or on the need to expel foreign prisoners, he was not careful. Whoever loves me follow me…

This repositioning, effective according to political scientists, had already been initiated by Charles Michel when he was Prime Minister, in a majority with the N-VA. She is also explained by the disappearance of alternatives like the Popular Party or the Destexhe lists, political scientists point out.

This is not without causing some internal tensions. The departure of Jean-Luc Crucke to the Engagés demonstrated this. The Engagés aim to capture those disappointed with social liberalism. By sliding too, towards the right, certainly after the years of anchoring more to the left under Joëlle Milquet. While DéFi, with whom a merger operation in the center failed, is further to the left under the leadership of their president François De Smet

French-speaking Belgium more to the right

Generally speaking, French-speaking Belgium tends to slide to the right. For reasons of necessity, no doubt, as the worrying budgetary and socio-economic situations require action. In doing so, political scientists say, the border with Flanders is blurring on the economic axis, not the cultural one.

This is how they summarize it in The Free: “It seems that the north and south of the country have moved a little closer in terms of partisan offerings. To the extent that the French-speaking parties have mainly moved towards the right on the economic level (MR, Les Engagés, PS) and the Flemish parties have not or little evolved on this axis, there is, in 2024, more of convergence on the economic dimension between the two parts of the country [qu’en] 2019. The distance between ‘left-wing Wallonia’ and ‘right-wing Flanders’ seems to have narrowed,” conclude the political scientists. On the other hand, “on the cultural axis, the distance […] between Flanders and French-speaking Belgium seems to have increased further”.

Eco-friendly “most left”

Finally, Ecolo’s turn to the left is confirmed. “Culturally, Ecolo remains the most left-wing party in French-speaking Belgium“, point out the analysts on RTBF. This was already the case in 2019. The Greens have reinvented themselves by becoming the relay for minorities, whether in matters of immigration or gender. Economically too, Ecolo tends to compete with the PTB. Here again, these developments are not without causing internal tensions.

Finally, specifies the RTBF, while the PS is accused of chasing the PTB, the study seems to demonstrate the opposite. “The PS moves slightly to the right economically (+ 0.9 points), without change on the cultural axis”, it is specified. This gives the PTB something to grind for, that goes without saying.

Conclusion of all these conclusions: parties evolve according to circumstances, but also under the impetus of their leaders. To the point of no longer completely corresponding to their initial status and the aspirations of their historical base. When will there be a political recomposition that takes this into account?

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