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The 18 May 2003 Belgian federal elections were the first Belgian elections to be held under a new electoral code. One of the novelties was an electoral threshold of 5%, which has cost many seats to the N-VA and the Green parties, Ecolo and Agalev. The Belgian Socialists recovered well; the liberal and nationalist parties increased their vote as well.

2003 Belgium federal election

← 1999 18 May 2003 (2003-05-18) 2007 →

All 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives
40 of 71 seats in the Senate
respectively 76 and 36 seats needed for a majority
  First party Second party Third party
  Guy Verhofstadt Elio Di Rupo
Leader Guy Verhofstadt (Candidate for PM) Elio Di Rupo Antoine Duquesne
Party VLD PS MR
Leader since N/A 1999 2003
Leader's seat East Flanders Hainaut French-speaking electoral college (Senate)
Last election 23 seats, 14.3% 19 seats, 10.22% 18 seats, 10.1%
Seats before 23 19 18
Seats won 25 25 24
Seat change Increase2 Increase6 Increase6
Popular vote 1,009,223 855,992 748,954
Percentage 15.4% 13.02% 11.4%
Swing Increase1.1% Increase2.8% Increase1.3%

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
  Steve Stevaert Stefaan De Clerck Frank Vanhecke
Leader Steve Stevaert Stefaan De Clerck Frank Vanhecke
Party sp.a + Spirit CD&V VB
Leader since 2003 2003 1996
Leader's seat Dutch-speaking electoral college (Senate) Dutch-speaking electoral college (Senate) Dutch-speaking electoral college (Senate)
Last election 14 seats, 9.5% 22 seats, 14.3% 15 seats, 9.87%
Seats before 14 22 15
Seats won 23 21 18
Seat change Increase9 Decrease1 Increase3
Popular vote 979,750 870,749 767,605
Percentage 14.9% 13.3% 11.59%
Swing Increase5.4% Decrease0.84% Increase1.70%

Belgian federal election 2003 - Chamber - circumscriptions.svg
Colours denote the winning party in each electoral district, as shown in the table of results.

Federal Government before election

Verhovstadt I
VLD-MR-PS-SP-Agalev-Ecolo

Elected Federal Government

Verhovstadt II
VLD-MR-PS-sp.a-Spirit

The Flemish Greens lost all their seats. The Greens were attacked on two fronts: some, including their coalition partners, accused them of being too fundamentalist, while others said that they had betrayed their ideals. The resignation of a Walloon green minister (Isabelle Durant), one week before the elections, probably didn't do them much good either. Although it was predicted in some opinion polls, the gains of the Front National were surprising, considering that it seldom appeared in the media. The most important trend was the recovery of the Flemish social-democrats, led by the popular (some would say populist) Steve Stevaert. The fact that Elio Di Rupo was learning Dutch caused rumours that he hoped to become Prime Minister, if the social-democrats would turn out to be the largest political family.

Themes that probably influenced the election results in some way or another were the government's opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the controversy around the nuisance around the airport of Zaventem, the controversy surrounding the banning of tobacco publicity, and unemployment. But a general dominating theme was lacking.

ResultsEdit

e • d Summary of the 18 May 2003 Belgian Chamber of Representatives election results
← 199920032007 →
Party Main ideology Leader(s) Votes % +/– E.c. % Seats +/–
Flemish Liberals and Democrats (VLD) Liberalism Karel De Gucht 1,009,223 15.36 1.1   25.9 25 2  
Socialist Party–Differently (SP.A) + Spirit (SPIRIT) Social democracy Steve Stevaert 979,750 14.91 5.4   24.9 23 9  
Christian Democratic & Flemish (CD&V) Christian democracy Stefaan De Clerck 870,749 13.25 0.84   25.3 21 1  
Socialist Party (PS) Social democracy Elio Di Rupo 855,992 13.02 2.8   36.4 25 6  
Flemish Block (VB) Flemish nationalism Frank Vanhecke 767,605 11.59 1.7   18.2 18 3  
Reformist Movement (MR) Liberalism Antoine Duquesne 748,954 11.40 1.3   28.4 24 6  
Humanist Democratic Centre (CDH) Christian democracy Joëlle Milquet 359,660 5.47 0.4   15.4 8 2  
New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) Flemish nationalism Geert Bourgeois 201,399 3.06 2.5   1 9  
Confederated Ecologists (ECOLO) Green politics 201,123 3.06 4.3   8.5 4 7  
National Front (FN) Nationalism Daniel Féret 130,012 1.98 0.5   5.6 1 0  
Living Differently (AGALEV) Green politics Jos Geysels 162,205 2.47 3.5   3.9 0 9  
Vivant (VIVANT) Social liberalism Roland Duchâtelet 81,337 1.20 0.9   0 0  
Others (parties that received less than 1% of the national vote) 204,180 3.10
Valid votes 6,572,189 94.74
Blank and invalid votes 364,612 5.26
Totals 6,936,801 100.00 150 0  
Electorate and voter turnout 7,570,637 91.63
Source: Federal Portal − Chamber Elections 2003.

Notes:
1) The 1999 data are resp. SP instead of SP.A-Spirit, CVP instead of CD&V, PRL-FDF-MCC alliance instead of MR, PSC instead of cdH and VU instead of N-VA.

e • d Summary of the 18 May 2003 Belgian Senate election results
Party Votes +/– % +/– Seats +/–
Socialist Party–Different / Spirit (Socialistische Partij–Anders / Spirit) 1,013,560 462,903   15.47 6.59   7 3  
Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten) 1,007,868 55,752   15.38 0.01   7 1  
Christian Democratic and Flemish (Christen-Democratisch en Vlaams) 832,849 80,659   12.71 2.03   6 0  
Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste) 840,908 243,018   12.84 3.19   6 2  
Reformist Movement (Mouvement Réformateur) 795,757 140,796   12.15 1.58   5 0  
Flemish Block (Vlaams Blok) 741,940 158,732   11.32 1.91   5 1  
Humanist Democratic Centre (Centre Démocrate Humaniste) 362,705 11,297   5.54 0.49   2 1  
New-Flemish Alliance (Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie) 200,273 117,557   3.06 2.0   0 2  
Ecolo 208,868 249,790   3.19 4.21   1 2  
Agalev 161,024 277,907   2.46 4.62   0 3  
National Front (Front National) 147,305 54,381   2.25 0.75   1 1  
Vivant (total) 86,723 36,775   1.3 0.7  
Others 151,731 2.3
Total (turnout 94.4 %) 6,551,511   100   40  
Source: Verkiezingen 2003.

The 1999 data are resp. SP instead of SPA-S, CVP instead of CD&V, PRL-FDF-MCC alliance instead of MR, PSC instead of cdH and Volksunie instead of N-VA.

Further readingEdit

  • Fitzmaurice, John (January 2004). "Belgium Stays 'Purple': The 2003 Federal Election". West European Politics. 27 (1): 146–156. doi:10.1080/01402380412331280843.