Calls mount for Blokin government
16 June 2004
BRUSSELS – An increasing number of Belgian politicians and intellectuals were on Wednesday saying that the far-right Vlaams Blok should be allowed to join the next government of Belgium’s Flanders region.
In regional elections last Sunday the Vlaams Blok fielded the second most popular list of candidates and won 32 seats in the Belgian regional parliament.
Indeed many analysts have pointed out that the Blok is actually now the single most popular political party in Flanders as the list that one the most seats in Sunday’s poll was put forward by a cartel of two parties – the centre-right Flemish Christian Democrats (CD-V) and the Niew Vlaams Alliantie (N-VA).
Immediately after the election results were announced the leader of the CD-V/N-VA list, Yves Leterme said he would not form a government with the Blok.
Leterme said he would continue policy agreed by all of Belgium’s mainstream political parties of forming a so-called ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the Blok.
This means that no mainstream party will form a coalition with the far-right Flemish group, effectively keeping it out of power.
But according to reports in Le Soir newspaper on Wednesday, an increasing number of Belgian politicians and academics are saying that owing to the size of the Blok’s victory last Sunday, keeping it out of power is no longer an option.
“It is urgent not to ignore the fact that if there were no cartels the Blok would now be the most popular party in Flanders,” Boudewijn Boukaert, President of the Liberal think tank Civitas told the paper.
Boukaert insisted that he had no personal desire to see the Blok in power but pointed out that the party’s claim that it was being treated in an undemocratic manner would be justified if it were excluded from the next Flemish government.
He also argued that forcing the extremists to back up their rhetoric with action by giving them a role in government would be a sure-fire way of reducing the Blok’s support.
“I predict that the Blok would have extreme problems and would pay the price at the next elections if it came to power. That was what happened to Haider’s party in Austria. Why don’t we try it?” he said.
Joerg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party lost a significant amount of support in Austria after a lacklustre two-year spell in government that began in 2000.
Political scientist Kris Deschouwer, who works at the Free University in Brussels, agreed with Boukaert’s analysis.
“Keeping them in the opposition is the way to make them grow,” he told Le Soir.
“The Blok will say, ‘is that democracy? No it’s the absence of democracy,’” he added.
Le Soir carried out a survey of Flemish voters before last Sunday’s elections, in which 60 percent of respondents said the Blok should be allowed into power if its score merited it.
Despite Leterme’s insistence that he will not team up with the Block, several local mayors who backed his list have said they would have no problem working with the extreme right party.
CD-V mayor Koen De Clerq was quoted in Le Soir as saying the Blok was “a party like another.”
A local politician from Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt’s Flemish Liberal Democrat (VLD) party was also in favour of bringing the Blok into the government.
“The only way to stop them is to confront them with the realities of power,” the unnamed ‘echevin’ from Lennik told the newspaper.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news