17 June 2004
BRUSSELS – The man tasked with forming the next government of Belgium’s Flanders region has confirmed that he will hold talks with the extreme-right Vlaams Blok party, it was reported on Thursday.
Yves Leterme, who headed the winning CD-V/N-VA list in last Sunday’s regional elections in Flanders, said he would meet with representatives from the far right party on Friday, “out of respect for Vlaams Blok voters.”
The Vlaams Blok emerged as the party with the second most popular electoral list in Sunday’s poll.
But many analysts have pointed out that the extreme-right group is actually the single most popular political party in Flanders because the CD-VN-VA list was a coalition ticket comprised of two different parties.
But despite the popularity of the Blok’s anti-immigrant ultra nationalist rhetoric among Flemish voters, Leterme has said he will not form a government with the far right group.
He would talk with the Blok on Friday because he wanted some “clarification” on certain elements of its programme, he said.
There would be no offers of government posts he insisted.
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt this weekend adopted a similarly nuanced line on the Blok.
In an interview with Flemish newspapers Het Volk and Het Nieuwsblad, he said that he believed it was time to begin a frank dialogue with the far right party.
Verhofstadt said such a strategy would quickly show the weaknesses in the Blok’s “simplistic” politics.
But like Leterme, Verhofstadt said it would be “unthinkable” for him or his party to collaborate politically with the Blok.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news