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GHENT, 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.
"We are in each other's face," De Wever told 800 party faithful packed into a sweaty theater here ahead of Sunday's elections. "And together we are going downhill fast. Flanders and Wallonia must be masters of their own fate."