BRUSSELS - A separatist party that advocates independence for the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, leaving the country's Francophones to fend for themselves, scored an unprecedented win in yesterday's general election.

Final results gave the Dutch-speaking New Flemish Alliance - a fringe factor until now - 27 of the 150 legislative seats, up 19 from the 2007 vote.

The election outcome was seen as a clear warning to Francophones to negotiate seriously about granting Dutch- and French-speakers more self-rule, or Dutch-speakers will bolt.

The New Flemish Alliance drew votes away from Premier Yves Leterme's outgoing coalition of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Socialists - all split into Dutch- and French-speaking factions - whose three years in office were marked by enduring linguistic spats.

Belgium comprises Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. Brussels, the officially bilingual but largely Francophone capital, is a third region.

Just about everything in Belgium - from political parties to broadcasters to boy scouts and voting ballots - comes in Dutch- and French-speaking versions.

Bart De Wever, 39, leader of the New Flemish Alliance, urged "Francophones to make (a country) that works."

But if De Wever becomes premier of this country of 6.5 million Dutch- and 4 million French-speakers, he will head a coalition government that will force him to tone down his independence talk and negotiate for more regional self rule within Belgium.

Flanders tends to be conservative and free-trade minded. Wallonia's long-dominant Socialists have a record of corruption. Flanders has half the unemployment of Wallonia and a 25 percent higher per-capita income, and its politicians are tired of subsidizing their Francophone neighbors.