(Brussels) Flemish nationalist parties dominated Belgium’s legislative elections on Sunday as Prime Minister Alexander De Croo’s liberal party lost ground. Difficult coalition talks are now expected to form a new government.

Despite polls predicting that the far-right, anti-immigration Vlaams Belang party would become the main political force in the country of 11.5 million, the right-wing nationalist New Flemish Alliance retained its top spot, with 22 % of the votes, according to provisional results provided by the Ministry of the Interior.

Vlaams Belang came in second place, with 17.5% of the vote, ahead of the socialist party Voruit, which received around 10.5% of the vote.

Alexander De Croo’s party received less than 7% of the vote, far behind the far left.

“It’s a very difficult night for us, we lost,” Mr De Croo said. From tomorrow, I will be a resigning prime minister. But the Liberals are strong, and we will come back. »

Belgian voters returned to the polls on Sunday for the European and national elections.

Sunday’s results will lead to complex negotiations in a country divided by language and deep regional identities. Belgium is divided along linguistic lines, with French-speaking Wallonia to the south and Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north, and governments are invariably formed by coalitions made up of parties from both regions.

Vlaams Belang has so far been prevented from accessing governments, as traditional parties have pledged to exclude it from power under the “cordon humaine” doctrine, referring to the protective barrier put in place to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

Alexander De Croo is leading a seven-party coalition government that was formed after nearly 18 months of negotiations following the previous election five years ago. The wait was even longer after the 2010 vote, when it took the country 541 days to form a government, still a world record.

As more than eight million Belgians went to the polls on a warm, sunny day, voters sometimes had to queue for hours before being able to vote in Brussels, the country’s capital.