Open Vlaamse Liberalen En Democraten
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Open Vlaamse Liberalen En Democraten

Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats
Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten
PresidentEgbert Lachaert
Founded1992 (VLD)
2007 (Open Vld)
Preceded byParty for Freedom and Progress
HeadquartersMelsensstraat 34 Brussels
Membership (2018)Decrease 60,000[1]
Political positionCentre-left[7] to centre-right[8]
European affiliationAlliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
International affiliationLiberal International
European Parliament groupRenew Europe
Francophone counterpartReformist Movement
Germanophone counterpartParty for Freedom and Progress
Colours  Blue
Chamber of Representatives
(Flemish seats)
(Flemish seats)
Flemish Parliament
Brussels Parliament
(Flemish seats)
European Parliament
(Flemish seats)
Flemish Provincial Councils

The Open Flemish Liberals and Democrats[9][10][11] (Dutch: Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten, pronounced ['o:p?(n) 'vla:ms? lib?'ra:l?(n) ?n de:mo:'kra:t?(n)] ; Open Vld) is a Flemish conservative-liberal political party in Belgium.[4][5] The party was created in 1992 from the former Party for Freedom and Progress (PVV) and politicians from other parties. The party led the government for three cabinets under Guy Verhofstadt from 1999 until March 2008. Open VLD most recently formed the Federal Government (the so-called "Swedish government") with N-VA, CD&V and the Francophone Reformist Movement (MR).

In the Flemish Parliament, the VLD formed a coalition government with sp.a-Spirit and Christian Democratic and Flemish (CD&V) from after the 2004 regional election until the 2009 regional election. Open VLD has been a member of the Leterme I Government formed on 22 March 2008, the Van Rompuy I Government formed on 2 January 2009, the Leterme II Government formed on 24 November 2009 and the Di Rupo Government formed on 6 December 2011.

Ideologically, Open VLD started as an economically liberal,[12] somewhat Thatcherite party under its founder, Guy Verhofstadt. The VLD rapidly became more centrist and gave up much of its free market approach, partly under the influence of Verhofstadt's political scientist brother Dirk Verhofstadt. Party chairman Bart Somers called in November 2006 for a "revolution" within the party, saying that "a liberal party", like the VLD, "can be only progressive and social".[13]

From 2000 to 2004, during the second period of its participation in the Belgian federal government and under Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, the VLD allegedly lost most of its ideological appeal. Several of its thinkers such as (former member) Boudewijn Bouckaert, president of Nova Civitas, heavily criticised the party. Many others resented the priority it placed on the 'Belgian compromise', which enabled the French Community's Socialist Party to gain a dominant position in the formulation of Belgian federal government policy.

In 2004, the VLD teamed up with the minority social-liberal party Vivant for both the Flemish and European elections. VLD-Vivant lost the elections to arch rivals CD&V and the Flemish Bloc. The VLD fell from second to third place among the Flemish political parties, slipping narrowly behind the sp.a-Spirit cartel. Internal feuds, the support for electoral rights for immigrants and an unsuccessful economic policy were seen as the main reasons for its election defeat. From 2007 the party kept having electoral difficulties, first due to competition from split-off List Dedecker and after 2010 from the liberal-conservative Flemish-nationalist party N-VA.

Under the presidency of chairwoman Gwendolyn Rutten, Open-Vld took on a more right-wing socio-economic course again.


As such the liberal party is the oldest political party of Belgium. In 1846, Walthère Frère-Orban succeeded in creating a political program which could unite several liberal groups into one party. Before 1960, the Liberal Party of Belgium was barely organised. The school pact of 1958, as a result of which the most important argument for the traditional anti-clericalism was removed, gave the necessary impetus for a thorough renewal. During the liberal party congress of 1961, the Liberal Party was reformed into the bilingual Party for Freedom and Progress (PVV-PLP), and Omer Vanaudenhove became the chairman of the new party. The new liberal party, which struggled with an anti-clerical image, opened its doors for believers, but wasn't too concerned about the situation of workers and primarily defended the interests of employers. It is a central principle of Classical Liberalism that employers and employees do NOT have opposed long term interests.

In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the tensions between the different communities in Belgium rose and there were disagreements within the liberal movement as well. In 1972, the unitary PVV-PLP was split into separate a Flemish and a Francophone parties. On Flemish side, under the guidance of Frans Grootjans, Herman Vanderpoorten and Willy De Clercq, the PVV was created, on Walloon side Milou Jeunehomme became the head of the PLP and Brussels got its own but totally disintegrated liberal party landscape. Willy De Clercq became the first chairman of the independent Party of Freedom and Progress (Dutch: Partij voor Vrijheid en Vooruitgang, PVV). De Clercq, together with Frans Grootjans and Herman Vanderpoorten, set out the lines for the new party. This reform was coupled an Ethical Congress, on which the PVV adopted very progressive and tolerant stances regarding abortion, euthanasia, adultery, homosexuality and gender equality.

In 1982, the 29-year-old reformer Guy Verhofstadt became the chairman of the party, and even was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Budget from 1986 to 1988. Annemie Neyts succeeded him as chairman, becoming the first female party chairman. In 1989, Verhofstadt once more became the chairman of the PVV, after his party had been condemned to the opposition by the Christian People's Party (CVP) in 1987.

In 1992, the PVV was reformed into the Flemish Liberals and Democrats (Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten, VLD) under the impulse of Verhofstadt. Although the VLD was the successor of the PVV, many politicians with democratic nationalist or socialist roots joined the new party. Notable examples are Jaak Gabriëls, then-president of the Flemish People's Union, and Hugo Coveliers. From the early 1990s, the VLD advanced in every election, only to get in government following the 1999 general election when the VLD became the largest party. Guy Verhofstadt became Prime Minister and Patrick Dewael became Minister-President of Flanders. They were both at the head of a coalition of liberals, social democrats and greens.

2007 elections

Before the 2007 general election, the VLD participated in a cartel with Vivant and Liberal Appeal. In February 2007, it decided to cease the cartel and start operating under the name Open VLD. On 10 June 2007 general elections, Open VLD won 18 out of 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives and 5 out of 40 seats in the Senate.

2010 elections

In the 2010 general election, Open VLD won 13 out of 150 seats in the Chamber of Representatives. After the long government formation process, on 6 December 2011 the Di Rupo Government was formed, with Open VLD one of the six constituent parties.

Representation in EU institutions

The party is fairly pro-European, and sits in the Renew Europe group with two MEPs.[14][15]

Then-Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (VLD) was rejected as a candidate for the presidency of the European Commission in June 2004.

In the European Committee of the Regions, Open VLD sits in the Renew Europe CoR group, with one full and two alternate members for the 2020-2025 mandate.[16] [17] Jean-Luc Vanraes is Coordinator in the CIVEX Commission.[18]

Electoral results

Chamber of Representatives

The main six Flemish political parties and their results for the Chamber of Representatives. From 1978 to 2014, in percentages for the complete 'Kingdom'.
Election Votes % Seats +/- Government
1971 392,130 7.4
Opposition (1971-1973)
Coalition (1973-1974)
1974[a] 798,818 15.2
Increase 2 Coalition
1977 475,917 8.5
Decrease 4 Opposition
1978 573,387 10.4
Increase 5 Opposition (1978-1980)
Coalition (1980)
Opposition (1980-1981)
1981 776,871 12.9
Increase 6 Coalition
1985 651,806 10.7
Decrease 6 Coalition
1987 709,758 11.5
Increase 3 Opposition
1991 738,016 12.0
Increase 1 Opposition
1995 798,363 13.1
Decrease 5 Opposition
1999 888,973 14.3
Increase 2 Coalition
2003 1,009,223 15.4
Increase 2 Coalition
2007 789,445 11.8
Decrease 7 Coalition
2010 563,873 8.6
Decrease 5 Coalition
2014 659,582 9.8
Increase 1 Coalition
2019 579,334 8.5
Decrease 2 Coalition


Election Votes % Seats +/-
1971[a] 776,514 14.9
1974[a] 755,694 14.6
Increase 4
1977 472,645 8.5
Decrease 1
1978 572,535 10.4
Increase 2
1981 781,137 13.1
Increase 3
1985 637,776 10.5
Decrease 3
1987 686,440 11.3
Steady 0
1991 713,542 11.7
Increase 2
1995 796,154 13.3
Decrease 7
1999 952,116 15.4
Steady 0
2003 1,007,868 15.4
Increase 1
2007 821,980 12.4
Decrease 2
2010 533,124 8.24
Decrease 1
2014 N/A N/A
Increase 1


Brussels Parliament

Election Votes % Seats +/- Government
D.E.C. Overall
1989 12,143 2.8 (#8)
1995 11,034 2.7 (#8)
Steady 0 Opposition
1999[b] 13,729 22.7 (#3) 3.2 (#7)
Steady 0 Coalition
2004[c] 12,433 19.9 (#2) 2.7 (#7)
Increase 2 Coalition
2009 11,957 23.1 (#1) 2.6 (#5)
Steady 0 Coalition
2014 14,296 26.7 (#1) 3.1 (#7)
Increase 1 Coalition
2019 11,051 15.8 (#3) 2.4 (#9)
Decrease 2 Coalition

Flemish Parliament

Election Votes % Seats +/- Government
1995 761,262 20.2 (#2)
1999 855,867 21.7 (#2)
Increase 1 Coalition
2004[c] 804,578 19.8 (#3)
Decrease 2 Coalition
2009 616,610 15.0 (#4)
Decrease 4 Opposition
2014 594,469 14.2 (#3)
Decrease 2 Coalition
2019 556,630 13.1 (#4)
Decrease 3 Coalition

Provincial councils

Election Votes % Councilors +/-
1994 708,769
2000 909,428
Increase 22
2006 745,952 18.9
Decrease 26
2012 595,932 14.6
Decrease 26
2018 570,601 13.7
Decrease 31

European Parliament

Election Votes % Seats +/-
D.E.C. Overall
1994 678,421 18.4 (#2)
Increase 1
1999 847,099 21.9 (#2) 13.6
Steady 0
2004[c] 880,279 21.9 (#2) 13.6
Steady 0
2009 837,834 20.6 (#2) 12.7
Steady 0
2014 858,872 20.4 (#2) 12.8
Steady 0
2019 678,051 15.9 (#3) 10.1
Decrease 1
  1. ^ a b c In coalition with Liberal Reformist Party
  2. ^ In coalition with VU
  3. ^ a b c In coalition with Vivant


The party is a member of the Liberal International, which was co-chaired by Annemie Neyts, member of Open VLD.


Notable members

Notable former members

See also


  1. ^ "Open VLD heeft de meeste leden en steekt CD&V voorbij". 30 October 2014.
  2. ^ Terry, Chris (6 February 2014). "Flemish Liberals and Democrats". The Democratic Society. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ Nordsieck, Wolfram (2019). "Flanders/Belgium". Parties and Elections in Europe. Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b Hans Slomp (2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 465. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8.
  5. ^ a b Peter Starke; Alexandra Kaasch; Franca Van Hooren (7 May 2013). The Welfare State as Crisis Manager: Explaining the Diversity of Policy Responses to Economic Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 192. ISBN 978-1-137-31484-0.
  6. ^ a b Almeida, Dimitri (27 April 2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. Routledge. p. 107. ISBN 9781136340390.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Josep M. Colomer (2008). Comparative European Politics. Taylor & Francis. p. 220. ISBN 978-0-203-12362-1.
  9. ^ Gijs, Camille; Moens, Barbara (30 September 2020). "Flemish liberal Alexander De Croo to be appointed Belgium's prime minister". Politico. Retrieved 2021.
  10. ^ Bock, Pauline (7 October 2020). "Why did it take so long to form Belgium's new 'Vivaldi' coalition?". Euronews. Retrieved 2021.
  11. ^ Barbiroglio, Emanuela (8 May 2020). "Masks Will Be Next Challenge For Belgium In COVID-19 Second Phase". Forbes. Retrieved 2021.
  12. ^ Thomas Banchoff; Mitchell Smith (1999). Legitimacy and the European Union: The Contested Polity. Routledge. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-415-18188-4.
  13. ^ "Somers wil revolutie binnen de VLD" (in Dutch). Belga. 4 November 2006.
  14. ^ "Home | Hilde VAUTMANS | MEPs | European Parliament". Retrieved 2021.
  15. ^ "Home | Guy VERHOFSTADT | MEPs | European Parliament". Retrieved 2021.
  16. ^ "Members Page CoR".
  17. ^ "Members Page CoR".
  18. ^ "Coordinators". Renew Europe CoR. Retrieved 2021.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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