(Edited from AP, Belgium) The frontrunner in Belgium’s elections this weekend is running on perhaps the ultimate in divisive proposals: the breakup of the nation.

Despite its status as the home of the European Union, Belgium itself has long struggled with divisions between its 6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones but until recently talk of a breakup has been limited to extremists.

(Edited from AP, Belgium) The frontrunner in Belgium’s elections this weekend is running on perhaps the ultimate in divisive proposals: the breakup of the nation.

Despite its status as the home of the European Union, Belgium itself has long struggled with divisions between its 6 million Dutch-speakers and 4.5 million Francophones but until recently talk of a breakup has been limited to extremists.

Now, Bart De Wever of the centrist New Flemish Alliance is pressing for exactly that. What once seemed a preposterous fantasy of the political fringes has, in the mouth of a man seen as a possible prime minister, suddenly takes on an air of plausibility.

Carving up Belgium has been a cherished dream for the far-right in Flanders, Belgium’s economically dominant north, and a nightmare scenario for poorer French-speaking Wallonia. Flanders tends to be conservative and free-trade minded. Wallonia’s long-dominant Socialists have a record of corruption and poor governance.

De Wever’s party is forecast to win 26 percent of the vote – way up from 3.2 percent in 2007. That means his party will likely emerge as the biggest in parliament with the right to try to cobble together a coalition government. He will unlikely get other mainstream parties to vote for a Belgian breakup.

That is why he seeks no immediate split but advocates a gradual and orderly breakup of Belgium to punish Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists for three years of political gridlock that has prevented them from addressing Belgium’s urgent economic woes.

The only French-speaking party that wants Belgium to break up is the far-right – and tiny – National Front which wants Wallonia to join France.

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