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Blok to fight racism ruling

Published on 23/04/2004

23 April 2004

BRUSSELS – Belgium’s far-right Flemish party, the Vlaams Blok, on Friday vowed to fight a court ruling that could see it deprived of millions of euros in state funding.

The Blok said it would appeal to Belgium’s supreme court against the ruling by a Gent tribunal, which argued that the far-right party regularly break’s Belgium’s anti-racism laws by publishing openly racist propaganda.

Racist political parties are banned from receiving state funding in Belgium, and if the supreme court upholds the Gent ruling the Vlaams Blok stands to lose EUR 4 million a year.

The Blok’s President Frank Vanhecke said on Wednesday that his party would not be able to survive such a financial loss and would have to fold after this June’s European and municipal elections in Belgium. 

“If the supreme court reaffirms the Gent ruling, the coming elections will be the last in which the Vlaams Blok, Flanders’ major political opposition party, will be able to participate,” Vanhecke said in a statement.

The Blok denies that it is racist and argued that the Gent court’s decision was politically motivated by Belgian federalists who oppose the far-right party’s demands for Flemish independence.

“The growing electoral appeal of the Vlaams Blok threatens the existence of Belgium,” Vanhecke’s statement said.

“Polls predict that the party is going to win the coming elections and could even become Flanders’ (and Belgium’s) biggest party, hence the Blok has to be killed,” he added.

The Vlaams Blok statement did not say which polls it was referring to but a survey carried out after the Gent ruling by two Flemish newspapers – Het Laatste Niews and De Nieuwe Gazet – found that the racism verdict does not seem to have dented the Blok’s popularity among its core voters.

According to the survey, 99 percent of Vlaams Blok supporters questions said they would continue to vote for the party despite the verdict.

More worryingly for the party’s opponents, a majority of leading ‘anti-Blok’ politicians felt the ruling would give the far-right Flemish party an aura of martyrdom.

The study found that 72 percent of Belgian liberals and 69 percent of socialists thought the Gent decision would allow the Vlaams Blok to present itself as a ‘victim’.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news