Flemish nationalist leader rounds on Belgian king
Firebrand nationalist leader Bart De Wever on Thursday rounded on the Belgian king, saying the monarch had overstepped his role and should move aside after meddling in political issues.
"The crown must be above the political arena so that he can represent all the people," De Wever wrote in the Flemish De Standaard daily.
"King Albert II is not filling this role properly. He has chosen the path of a royalty of division. His Christmas message was the pitiful height of it," he said.
King Albert, 78, said Monday in his traditional Christmas address to a country deeply divided between its Flemish- and French-speaking halves, that Belgians needed to be "vigilant ... in the face of populist words".
He warned too of the parallels with the 1930s, which saw the rise of Fascism in a Europe sunk deep in Depression, but cited not names.
De Wever took the remarks to be aimed at him, a view shared by the Flemish press, after his New Flemish Alliance party (N-VA) recently won control of Antwerp, Belgium's second city, to put him in pole position ahead of 2014 national elections.
The king "takes me for a Fascist. After this Christmas message, I wonder if he can continue to play his role", De Wever said, according to extracts published in De Morgen of an interview to be broadcast later Thursday.
"A politicised monarchy is incompatible with democracy," he said, adding it was "scandalous" that Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, a Socialist French-speaker, had approved the king's address.
"The king and the Socialist Party find common ground in rejecting the democratic choice of a great part of the Flemish people," De Wever said.
Without actually calling for the king to step down, De Wever said "another system" should be in place for the 2014 polls since the monarch would not be able to play his proper role as impartial arbitrator.
© 2012 AFP